Heat in the Heartland: Climate Change and Economic Risk in the Midwest

Risky Business Projec

[From Executive Summary] …Rising heat resulting from increased greenhouse gas emissions is likely to affect the Midwest region’s ten major metropolitan areas through higher heat-related mortality, increased electricity demand and energy costs, and declines in labor productivity. Meanwhile, without significant adaptation on the part of Midwest farmers, the region’s thriving agricultural sector—particularly in the southern states—is likely to suffer yield losses and economic damages as temperatures rise.

In addition, potential changes in the intensity, form, and timing of precipitation in the region—including snowfall, rain, and evaporation off the Great Lakes and Mississippi River—will pose challenges for regional infrastructure managers, farmers, and businesses…Our findings show that if we stay on our current emissions path, the Midwest will likely experience significant economic impacts from climate change. These changes are both negative and positive, varying greatly from the southern to the northern parts of the region…

  • By the end of this century, dangerous levels of extreme heat are likely across the southern Midwest.
    • By the end of this century, the average Missouri resident will likely experience 46 to 115 days above 95°F in a typical year—about as many extremely hot days as the average Arizonan has experienced each year in recent decades. There is a 1-in-20 chance that Missouri will experience more than 125 such days by the end of the century.
    • Summer average temperatures in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio are expected to be hotter by century’s end than average summer temperatures in Washington, D.C., today.
    • The average Chicago resident is expected to experience more days over 95°F each year by century’s end than the average Texan does today, with a 1-in-20 chance that these extremely hot days will be more than double Texas’s average.
    • Rising humidity combined with increased heat across the region will likely mean more frequent days that reach extremes on the “Humid Heat Stroke Index.”6 There is a 1-in-20 chance that the city of Chicago will experience more than 10 days per year by the middle of this century with heat and humidity conditions similar to the heat wave of 1995, which caused approximately 750 deaths…

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