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Adaptation Examples in the Midwest

Map of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

Adaptation Examples in the Midwest

Key Points
  • Chicago uses green infrastructure to minimize the impact of heat waves in the city.
  • Minnesota formed an Interagency Climate Adaptation Team to help all sectors of the state prepare for and adapt to the likely changes in climate.
  • The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts released a report that outlines likely climate change impacts in the state and suggests how various sectors and locations can adapt to those changes.
  • The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an inter-agency federal task force, is preparing the Great Lakes for climate change by improving ecosystem resilience.

Efforts to prepare for climate change are underway in the Midwest. The 66 million residents in the area will likely face a range of climate change impacts, including more intense heat waves, more frequent heavy downpours, and lower water levels in the Great Lakes. [1] Learn more about climate change impacts in the Midwest.

Below are examples of local, state, and federal efforts to prepare for climate change impacts in the Midwest. Following the examples is a list of links to a number of adaptation plans, reports, and studies specific to the region. Both the examples and links are intended to be illustrative, not comprehensive.

Chicago conducts city-wide climate change adaptation planning

Map of Chicago that shows Chicago's urban hot spots. Orange coloring represents the hottest days OR nights. Red represents the hottest days AND nights. The middle portion of the map and a small area in the northwest have the highest concentration of both orange and red shading. View enlarged image

This map shows urban hotspots in Chicago. The red areas experience the hottest 10% of both day and night temperatures. The orange areas experience the hottest 10% of either day or night temperatures. Source: USGCRP (2009)

In 2008, the City of Chicago unveiled a Climate Action Plan that features a section on adaptation. Exit EPA Disclaimer Chicago is particularly concerned that climate change will bring the city more severe heat waves. In addition to updating the city's emergency response plan for heat waves, Chicago is taking many steps to make the city cooler, including the following.

  • The city produced a map (see figure) showing urban hotspots in the city. This can help planners identify areas for implementing future projects. [2]
  • Since the 2000 installation of a green roof on City Hall, the city has promoted the use of green roofs on public and private buildings. By 2010, the city had over 4 million square feet of green roofs on 300 buildings. [3]
  • The 2001 Chicago Energy Conservation Code outlined reflective roof standards for new buildings.
  • Since 1991, Chicago has planted over 600,000 trees in the city. [3] The Climate Action Plan calls for an additional million trees by 2020. [2]
  • To prevent combined sewer overflows that result in sewage flowing into the Chicago River, the city is building a deep tunnel system to expand capacity during flood events. [3]

For more information about heat waves and health, visit the Health Impacts & Adaptation page.

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Minnesota Interagency Climate Adaptation Team develops a state adaptation plan

To address some of its vulnerabilities, Minnesota formed an Interagency Climate Adaptation Team in 2009. In August 2010, the Team released a report, Adapting to Climate Change in Minnesota. Exit EPA Disclaimer The report documents current and proposed state agency adaptation actions for key sectors, including agriculture, energy, health, natural resources, water, and transportation. [4] In addition, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) formed its own Climate Adaptation Workgroup, which developed a strategic plan (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer that outlines public health strategies for coping with climate change. [5] As part of this effort, MDH is mapping sensitive populations along with the areas that would be affected by potential flooding and storms. Given potential expansion of tick habitats under warmer temperature conditions, MDH is also expanding its public education efforts on risk factors and prevention methods related to tick-borne diseases. [5]

For more information about adaptation strategies for health, visit the Health Impacts & Adaptation page. For more information about the likely impacts of climate change in Minnesota, visit the Midwest Impacts section.

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Wisconsin develops a multi-stakeholder climate action plan

In 2007, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Exit EPA Disclaimer the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Exit EPA Disclaimer and other state agencies and institutions established the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) Exit EPA Disclaimer to determine how climate change impacts will affect various state sectors and how to best adapt. WICCI working groups each created a report Exit EPA Disclaimer with adaptation strategies for their focus sector or location. The working group materials provided content for WICCI's first report, Wisconsin's Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation, Exit EPA Disclaimer which presents numerous adaptation strategies that various stakeholders can incorporate into their planning. For example, the report suggests using urban green infrastructure to cool communities and reduce stormwater runoff; building capacity by developing management frameworks and training decision-makers to use adaptation tools; and strengthening research, education, and outreach plans about how climate change impacts local agricultural systems (PDF). Exit EPA Disclaimer

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Great Lakes Restoration Initiative increases the lakes' resilience

Photograph of a floating plant.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative collaborates with groups like the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System that keeps a watchlist of invasive species — such as this tropical water lettuce that may start thriving under warmer conditions in the Great Lakes. Source: USGS (2008) Exit EPA Disclaimer

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a collaborative effort of 15 federal agencies tasked with restoring the Great Lakes. Although the initiative does not list climate change adaptation as one of its main goals, the plan recognizes that improving the health of the lake ecosystems will make the Great Lakes more resilient to climate change impacts. [6] Partners clean up toxins, remove invasive species, protect watersheds from pollution, restore wetlands, and reach out to the community. They will also monitor the winter ice season on the lakes, which could inform future adaptation measures.

For more information about ecosystem adaptation, visit the Ecosystems Impacts & Adaptation page. For more information about national and global indicators of climate change, visit the Indicators page.

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[1] USGCRP (2009). Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States . Karl, T.R., J. M. Melillo, and T. C. Peterson (eds.). United States Global Change Research Program. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, USA.

[2] City of Chicago (2010). Chicago Climate Action Plan (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer . City of Chicago.

[3] US EPA (2010). Green Infrastructure Case Studies: Municipal Policies for Managing Stormwater with Green Infrastructure (PDF). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, USA.

[4] Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (2010). Adapting to Climate Change in Minnesota (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer . Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

[5] Minnesota Department of Health (2010). Draft — MDS Strategic Plan to Adapt to Climate Change (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer . Minnesota Department of Health.

[6] Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (2010). Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan FY2010 — FY 2014 . Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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