Climate Change in the Midwest: A Synthesis Report for the National Climate Assessment

The diverse landscapes of the U.S. Midwest, and the natural processes, livelihoods, and infrastructure associated with them, are vulnerable to climate change. This report, pre- pared as a contribution to the Third National Climate Assessment, addresses the potential impacts of climate change on natural systems, human health, and several important economic sectors within the Midwest. Key findings of the report include the following:

  • Annual mean temperature in the Midwest has warmed since approximately 1900, with annual precipitation generally increasing from the mid 1930s to present. Increases in both the number of wet days and the frequency of heavy precipitation events contribute to the larger precipitation totals. Climate projec- tions developed from global climate models (GCMs) consistently project warmer temperatures for the region by mid-to-late century. Although the majority of climate projections suggest increased precipitation during winter, there is little agreement on the sign of the projected change for other times of the year. Regardless of season, intensification of high magnitude precipitation events is anticipated.
  • During the period 1948-1999, net basin supply within the Lake Superior basin declined in spring but increased in autumn, whereas regional streamflow has increased since approximately 1940. Projections of future Great Lakes water levels and streamflow that have been made over most of the last 25 years, where temperature is used as a proxy for potential evapotranspiration, suggest substantial reductions. However, recent projections that simulate evapotrans- piration using an energy-based approach are inconsistent in terms of the sign (positive or negative) of future streamflow and lake level changes.
  • Changes in Great Lakes water levels, regardless of the sign of the projected change, will have a large impact on hydrogeomorphologic features such as beaches and dunes, and will create vulnerabilities for coastal ecosystems, infra- structure, and communities. Lake level fluctuations may disrupt Great Lakes commercial shipping and result in increased channel maintenance costs at Great Lakes ports.
  • • Great Lakes surface water temperatures have increased over the past few decades. Continued warming will impact the timing and extent of thermal strati- fication, winter ice cover, and the availability of dissolved oxygen
  • The region’s ecosystems are highly vulnerable to the direct impacts of climate change and to climate-related exacerbation of current stressors such as invasive species, pollution, and pests and pathogens. The capacity of many species to adapt is limited by historical and on-going land conversion and fragmentation of habitats. An acceleration in the rate of species declines and extirpations is anticipated, as adjustments to temperature change would necessitate rapid and perhaps unrealistic movement of plant and animal species if they are to main- tain pace with expected shifts in habitat ranges.
  • Traditional and modern cultural connections to forest systems likely will be altered by climate change. Changes in the presence and availability of culturally- important species, such as white cedar and paper birch, are anticipated. Addi- tionally, changes in contemporary and iconic forms of forest-based recreation can be expected. Forest ecosystems also may be less likely to provide a consis- tent supply of some forest products, especially if the dominant species in those ecosystems are at the southern edges of their ranges.
  • Changes in the variability, timing and amount of growing season precipitation will have a substantial impact on future crop yields and the number of work- able field days, and an increased likelihood of extreme heat events will impact Midwestern meat, milk, and egg production. Perennial crops may be at a greater risk of freeze damage, as flower buds lose hardiness and become sensitive to damaging cold temperatures earlier in spring.
  • Flooding along the region’s major rivers, including the Mississippi River, has serious consequences for riverine communities and on transportation. The risk of levee failure during a major riverine flood is a significant regional hazard, as many of the nearly 4,000 linear miles of levees in the region are in poor condition.
  • Winter sports, especially those activities that depend on natural snow and ice (e.g., cross country skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling), will likely be negatively impacted by climate change. Warmer springs and falls will increase the attrac- tiveness of the Midwest for activities such as camping, boating, and golf.
  • The region has a number of climate-sensitive diseases or health conditions, and, on balance, adverse health ramifications are anticipated to outweigh beneficial health outcomes. Greater frequency of heat waves, decreased air quality, and greater risk of waterborne disease, especially given the aging municipal water systems in the region, are of concern.
  • National and state climate change policies, such as the Clear Air Act, have had a large influence on planning and investment decisions within the region’s energy sector, and continued impacts of these policies on the provision and cost of energy services are anticipated.

The challenge for the Midwest will be to design and implement creative and effective adaptation strategies to reduce the region’s vulnerability to climate change, while capitalizing on potential co-benefits of mitigation policies.

Lami Town, Fiji Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

Climate change is already affecting millions of people worldwide. In urban areas, which are typically characterized by significantly higher population density, climate change will exacerbate and compound existing climate vulnerabilities, especially for the urban poor. As a result of climate change, it is expected that storm frequency and intensity will increase, flooding will become more serious and droughts will affect food production in rural areas, which will have damaging effects in cities. Coastal areas are particularly threatened by inundation from storm surges and sea-level rise. Existing urban development challenges, such as poor health and inadequate housing, is substantially exacerbated by the effects of climate change. At the same time, cities are the main drivers of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. This means that cities must be at the centre of efforts to both mitigate the causes of climate change, and to adapt to their anticipated effects.

In Fiji, as in many areas in the Pacific, urban populations are located in highly hazard-prone areas in the coastal zone. Storm surges and sea-level rise can affect settlements, food production and infrastructure. A lack of basic services such as clean water supply and solid waste management can exacerbate the negative effects of climate change. Amid all this, the poorest are almost always the most vulnerable, as they have less access to infrastructure, basic services and social safety nets in the event of a disaster.

Hoi An, Viet Nam Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

Climate change is already affecting millions of people worldwide. In urban areas, which are typically characterized by a significantly higher population density, climate change will exacerbate and compound existing vulnerabilities, especially for the urban poor. As a result of climate change, we expect that storm frequency and intensity will increase, flooding will become increasingly significant and droughts will affect food production in rural areas, which will result in damaging knock-on effects in urban areas. Coastal areas are threatened by inundation from sea-level rise, and other urban challenges, such as poor health and inadequate housing, to name two, will be substantially exacerbated by climate change impacts. As the main drivers of increased greenhouse gas emissions, cities must be the centre of actions both to mitigate the causes of climate change, and to adapt to their anticipated effects.

In Vietnamese cities, as in other cities globally, urban centres are often located in highly risk-prone areas, such as in the coastal zone, along rivers or among mountains. Major types of infrastructure, such as roads, hospitals and water supply networks, as well as basic services such as healthcare, are vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. In coastal areas, storm surges and sea-level rise can affect food supply and settlements. In Viet Nam, it is projected that sea levels will rise by 57 to 73 millimetres by 2100. Without appropriate adaptation actions, this could result in the inundation of 39 per cent of the coastal land area in the Mekong Delta, 10 per cent of the Red River Delta and 2.5 per cent of the Central Coastal Region, causing severe impacts to infrastructure, economic activities and the population. Finally, the poorest are always the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, due to the fact that they have less access to infrastructure, basic services and social safety nets in the event of a disaster.

Honiara, Solomon Islands Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

The Honiara City Council Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment was developed in response to a request for assistance to UNDP and UN-Habitat by the Solomon Island Government through the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey to implement key recommendations of the Solomon Islands National Development Strategy (2011-2020) and the National Climate Change Policy (2012-2017).

Given the Government of the Solomon Islands National Climate Change Policy directive, the main purpose of the vulnerability and adaptation assessment for Honiara is to provide national and local government decision makers and community leaders with information relevant to defining their adaptation priorities and plans, with the view of eventually integrating this into their regular programmes and budgets. The vulnerability and adaptation assessment will also provide guidance in identifying where and what critical actions are needed to effectively manage the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

The vulnerability and adaptation assessment is envisioned to form part of a larger strategic urban planning process where stakeholder involvement is essential. The participatory nature of the vulnerability and adaptation assessment is expected to bring about broad-based decision making that increases the ability of local governments to mobilize effective local actions.

Adaptation in the City

This webinar focuses on how cities and communities may best respond to the complexities of a changing climate and how to best adapt to on-the-ground issues. Community-driven climate adaptation efforts in Brooklyn, New York and Detroit, Michigan are highlighted. Speakers include Kara Reeve (National Wildlife Federation), Kimberly Hill Knott (Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice), Elizabeth Yeampierre (Uprose), and Lara Hansen (EcoAdapt).

This is the third installment of the National Adaptation Forum Webinar Series and is sponsored by EcoAdapt, the National Wildlife Federation, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, and Uprose, and hosted by the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE;

For more details, click here. For other NAF webinar recordings, visit

Reducing Climate Risks with Natural Infrastructure

As California considers how to adapt to a changing climate, planners often focus on defensive infrastructure with a negative habitat impact: bigger levees, rock walls to protect coastlines or even giant sea gates.

But California can follow a different path. With natural or “green” infrastructure that leverages natural processes to reduce risk to human lives, property and businesses, the state can build resilience to the coming changes while restoring natural habitats instead of degrading them.

“Green” or “natural” infrastructure can include a range of strategies. Some projects focus on preserving existing natural systems, while others are highly engineered, combining green techniques with more traditional “gray” approaches.

This report evaluates nine green infrastructure case studies in California. Each improves flood or coastal protection, provides habitat and preserves or restores the natural dynamics between water and land. We review the available data on the costs and benefits of each case and, where possible, compare this information with the costs and benefits of a gray alternative at the same site.

biodiverCities: A Primer on Nature in Cities

With the majority of the world's population living in urban areas, its time to ask how they can become more livable, sustainable and resilient. biodiverCities explores why biodiversity should be the business of everyone committed to building more sustainable cities.

This Primer is intended for urban decision-makers who want to explore new approaches to this issue, and see examples of where biodiversity has been successfully integrated into municipal services and programs. We do this by targeting the message directly at urban decision makers and their role in mainstreaming this issue, presenting a range of case studies and mechanisms that currently exist for local governments, and featuring best practices that have produced positive results.

With a new spin on the benefits of nature in cities, biodiverCities is your go-to resource on urban biodiversity discourses in Canada. It provides a comprehensive overview of the ecological services that urban biodiversity provides, and why these services are the foundation of healthy communities.

Meeting Summary - Green Resilience: Climate Adaptation + Mitigation Synergies

The purpose of this report is to capture best practices and lessons learned from experts in the field who are contributing to an integrated approach to climate adaptation + mitigation (A+M) to cut carbon pollution (mitigation) and prepare the nation for climate change impacts (adaptation). These best practice and lessons learned were distilled from the “Climate Adaptation + Mitigation Synergies: Pursuing Implementation Pilots” symposium and workshop sessions held at the 14th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment Conference held in Washington, DC from January 28-30, 2014. The Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) and the National Climate Assessment’s network (NCAnet) Adaptation + Mitigation Nexus (AMNex) affinity group co-hosted these sessions.

Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment

The National Climate Assessment assesses the science of climate change and its impacts across the United States, now and throughout this century. It documents climate change related impacts and responses for various sectors and regions, with the goal of better informing public and private decision-making at all levels.

A team of more than 300 experts, guided by a 60-member National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee produced the full report – the largest and most diverse team to produce a U.S. climate assessment. Stakeholders involved in the development of the assessment included decision-makers from the public and private sectors, resource and environmental managers, researchers, representatives from businesses and non-governmental organizations, and the general public. More than 70 workshops and listening sessions were held, and thousands of public and expert comments on the draft report provided additional input to the process.

The assessment draws from a large body of scientific peer-reviewed research, technical input reports, and other publicly available sources; all sources meet the standards of the Information Quality Act. The report was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, the 13 Federal agencies of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the Federal Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability.

Documentary: Adapting to Climate Change in China

The Adapting to Climate Change in China (ACCC) documentary tells the story of adaptation in China – meeting the experts who are working to build a resilient future for China and those whose lives are changing as a result of climate impacts. Adapting to Climate Change in China is a research policy project, supporting China's response to the impacts of climate change. This documentary shows the work being carried out at the national and local level.

Please note - due to the hosting site, there are 30 seconds adverts at the beginning. After that the bilingual documentary begins.