Changed Climate

Mar 24, 2017

Changed Climate

Read a summary of the Alternative Futures engagement phase (April-August 2017), during which CMAP connected with more than 2,500 residents in 127 workshops and five topical forums, with another 61,000 providing input via interactive kiosks. Capping off these activities was a speech to the City Club of Chicago by CMAP executive director Joe Szabo.

What if climate change impacts have intensified in 2050?

Imagine a future with intensified climate change impacts… High greenhouse gas emissions have led to more extreme temperatures, warmer winters, more intense and frequent storms, and droughts. By 2050, these impacts have strained the region's infrastructure and natural systems, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable residents. Shifting habitats and agricultural zones, drought, and water supply and quality issues also present economic and environmental challenges. Potential economic opportunities may arise from population growth and increased reinvestment, as residents and industries from areas more severely impacted by climate change impacts move to the region. 

What is the primary driver behind this future?

In 2050, continued fossil fuel use would over decades increase greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change by trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere. In large concentrations, these gasses create a barrier that prevents heat from reflecting back into space, similar to the glass ceiling of a greenhouse. Human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, increases the concentration of these gasses in the atmosphere, causing the climate to warm. If human activity, as well as existing policies and mitigation efforts, remain the same, regional emissions are expected to increase 28 percent by 2050. 

What would life be like in 2050 with intensified climate impacts?

Summer days would be insufferably hot. Winters would be warmer on average, yet the extremely cold days would be colder than ever. Storms would be more severe, and rainy periods last longer. Prolonged droughts would cause increased hardship for communities without access to Lake Michigan water. Other outcomes might include:

  • Increased property damage from flooding.
  • Lakes and rivers more polluted.
  • Dwindling groundwater in parts of the region, with residents and businesses charged more for water.
  • Habitat shifts, bringing new species and requiring changes to agricultural practice.
  • Increased health challenges.
  • Transportation obstructed more frequently by weather related events.
  • Strained energy and water infrastructure systems.
  • New economic opportunities due to growth of population and industries.
  • New challenges for existing industries.
  • Greater risk of climate-related harm to lower income residents, the elderly, and populations of color.

Strategies to face this future

CMAP has collected more details about this future and strategies that can be taken now to prepare for intensified climate change impacts in this Changed Climate memo. More discussion of the strategies can be found in the Climate Resilience strategy paper. 

Media coverage

"Environmental activist gets a voice in plan for the future," by Kate MacArthur, Chicago Tribune

"Preparing Chicago for climate change," by Jenn White, WBEZ Morning Shift

Read our recap of the forum, "Thriving in a Changing Climate," held at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on April 6, 2017 or watch the forum below courtesy of CAN TV.


CMAP wants to hear from you about this future. Make your voice heard by:
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