Jim Angel, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois
Barbara Mayes Boustead, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Kathryn C. Conlon, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Kimberly R. Hall, The Nature Conservancy
Jenna L. Jorns, University of Michigan, Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments
Kenneth E. Kunkel, North Carolina State University
Maria Carmen Lemos, University of Michigan, Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments
Brent Lofgren, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Todd A. Ontl, USDA Forest Service, Northern Forests Climate Hub
John Posey, East West Gateway Council of Governments
Kim Stone, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (through January 2018)
Eugene Takle, Iowa State University
Dennis Todey, USDA, Midwest Climate Hub
Thomas Bonnot, University of Missouri
Katherine Browne, University of Michigan
Melonee Montano, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
Hannah Panci, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
Jason Vargo, University of Wisconsin
Madeline R. Magee, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Kristin Lewis, Senior Scientist
Allyza Lustig, Program Coordinator
Katie Reeves, Engagement and Communications Lead
<b>Angel</b>, J., C. Swanston, B.M. Boustead, K.C. Conlon, K.R. Hall, J.L. Jorns, K.E. Kunkel, M.C. Lemos, B. Lofgren, T.A. Ontl, J. Posey, K. Stone, G. Takle, and D. Todey, 2018: Midwest. In <i>Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II</i> [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 872–940. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH21
At-risk communities in the Midwest are becoming more vulnerable to climate change impacts such as flooding, drought, and increases in urban heat islands. Tribal nations are especially vulnerable because of their reliance on threatened natural resources for their cultural, subsistence, and economic needs. Integrating climate adaptation into planning processes offers an opportunity to better manage climate risks now. Developing knowledge for decision-making in cooperation with vulnerable communities and tribal nations will help to build adaptive capacity and increase resilience.
Vulnerability and Adaptation
In the Midwest, negative impacts related to climate change are projected to affect human systems, including cities, rural and coastal communities, and tribes.28,283,284 Higher temperatures, increasing variation in precipitation patterns, and changes in lake levels are likely to increase the vulnerability of these systems to extreme events (including flooding, drought, heat waves, and more intense urban heat island effects), compounding already existing stressors such as economic downturns, shrinking cities, and deteriorating infrastructure.285 Extreme heat such as that experienced in July 2011 (with temperatures reaching over 100°F in the majority of the Midwest) is expected to intensify,286 and urban heat islands may cause hardships to those most vulnerable, such as the old and infirm and those without resources to control their microclimate (for example, through the use of air conditioning).287 Under the higher scenario (RCP8.5), extreme heat is projected to result in losses in labor and associated losses in economic revenue up to $9.8 billion per year in 2050 and rising to $33 billion per year in 2090 (in 2015 dollars).28 Expanding the use of green infrastructure and locating it properly may mitigate the negative impact of heat islands in urban settings (see Key Messages 4 and 5) (see also Ch. 11: Urban, KM 4).
To mitigate or better respond to these impacts, scholars and practitioners highlight the need to engage in risk-based approaches that not only focus on assessing vulnerabilities but also include effective planning and implementation of adaptation options (Ch. 28: Adaptation, KM 3).32 These place-based approaches actively rely on participatory methodologies to evaluate and manage risk and to monitor and evaluate adaptation actions.32 However, documented implementation of climate change planning and action in Midwest cities and rural communities remains low. For example, in 2015, only four counties and cities in the region—Marquette and Grand Rapids in Michigan and Dane County and Milwaukee in Wisconsin—had created formal climate adaptation plans, none of which have been implemented.288 Moreover, a recent study of 371 cities in the Great Lakes region found that only 36 of them could identify a climate entrepreneur, that is, a public official clearly associated with pushing for climate action.285 Attempts to assess vulnerabilities, especially for poor urban communities, face persisting environmental and social justice barriers, such as lack of participation and historical disenfranchisement,289 despite evidence that these communities are going to be disproportionately affected by climate impacts.290 Additionally, in-depth interviews with local decision-makers on water management across scales have suggested that a lack of political and financial support at the state and federal levels is a barrier to adaptation action in cities and counties.291 While initiatives are underway in the Midwest to mainstream adaptation action—that is, embed and integrate climate adaptation action in what cities already do (see Case Study “Great Lakes Climate Adaptation Network”) (see also Ch. 28: Adaptation, KM 5)—there are few examples in the published literature that document failure or success (but see Kalafatis et al. 2015, Vogel et al. 2016292,293).
In addition, work on estimating the cost of adaptation nationally and in the Midwest remains limited, though the EPA has estimated that the Midwest is among the regions with the largest expected damages to infrastructure, including the highest estimated damages to roads, rising from $3.3 billion per year in 2050 to $6 billion per year in 2090 (in 2015 dollars) under a higher scenario (RCP8.5), and highest number of vulnerable bridges (Key Message 5).28 Additionally, economic models that value climate amenities—for example, offering residents the benefits of warmer winters or cooler summers—indicate that while the Midwest is among the regions with the largest predicted amenity loss, certain cities (such as Minneapolis and Minnesota) and subregions (such as upper Michigan) will be among the few places where the value of warmer winters outweighs the cost of hotter summers.297,298 Limited evidence indicates that household consideration of climate amenities may contribute to reversing long-standing trends in out-migration from the Midwest298 and that changes in national migration patterns will contribute to population growth in the region.28 More research is needed to understand how cities in the Midwest might be affected by long-term migration to the region.31
Collaboratively Developing Knowledge and Building Adaptive Capacity
Interactions among producers of climate information (for example, universities and research institutes), end users (such as city planners, watershed managers, and natural resource managers), and intermediaries (for example, information brokers and organizations) play a critical role in increasing the integration and use of climate knowledge for adaptation.299 In the Midwest, organizations such as the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA; glisa.umich.edu) and the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Impacts (wicci.wisc.edu), and research projects such as Useful to Usable (U2U), have created mechanisms and tools, such as climate scenarios, decision support tools, and climate data, that promote the joint development of usable climate information across different types of stakeholders, including city officials, water managers, farmers, and tribal officials.224,294,300 For example, working closely with corn farmers and climate information intermediaries, including extension agents and crop consultants, in Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, and Indiana, an interdisciplinary team of climate scientists, agronomists, computer scientists, and social scientists have not only created a suite of decision support tools (see Key Message 1) but also significantly advanced understanding of corn farmers’ perceptions of climate change,301 willingness to adapt,302 and opportunities for and limitations of the use of climate information in the agricultural sector.294,303 Strategies being implemented as a result of these collaborations, including the use of green infrastructure and water conservation efforts, are proving effective at reducing sensitivity to the impacts of climate change in the Midwest.304,305,306 In addition, binational partnerships between the United States and Canada, in support of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, synthesized annual climate trends and impacts for a general audience in a pilot product for 2017 to provide a timely and succinct summary in an easy-to-understand format (Ch. 16: International, KM 4).307 However, these organizations face challenges including the high costs in interacting with users, contextualizing and customizing climate information, and building trust.308 The development of new forms of sustained engagement likely would increase the use of climate information in the region.
Tribes and Indigenous communities in the Midwest have been among the first to feel the effects of climate change as it impacts their culture, sovereignty, health, economies, and ways of life.39 The Midwest contains ceded territory—large swaths of land in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in which Ojibwe tribes reserved hunting, fishing, and gathering rights in treaties with the United States government.88 Climate change presents challenges to the Ojibwe tribes in co-managing these resources with other land managers; as the climate changes, various species utilized by tribes are declining and may shift entirely outside of treaty boundaries and reserved lands.127,309,310 In certain tribal cultures, all beings (species) are important; climate adaptation efforts that favor certain beings at the detriment of others can be problematic. Adaptation to climate change might also mean giving up on something deeply embedded in tribal culture for which no substitute exists.31 A family sugarbush (a forest stand used for maple syrup), for example, cannot be replaced culturally, spiritually, or economically if the sugar maple range were to shift outside of treaty or reservation boundaries. As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, further research can shed light on how tribal nations are being affected.
Projected changes in climate, particularly increases in extreme precipitation events, will have pronounced impacts on tribal culture and tribal people in the Midwest.283 Reservations often are located in isolated rural communities, meaning emergency response to flooding presents challenges in getting help to tribal citizens. Additionally, in areas of the Midwest, infestations of the invasive emerald ash borer already are devastating ash tree populations and corresponding Indigenous cultural and economic traditions.127
Across the United States, a number of tribal nations are developing adaptation plans, including in the Midwest (Ch. 15: Tribes, KM 3).283 These plans bring together climate data and projections with Traditional Ecological Knowledge 311,312 of tribal members. Within Indigenous oral history lies a complex and rich documentation of local ecosystems—not found in books—that can be used to understand and document the changes that are occurring.313 Climate change effects are not typically immediate or dramatic because they occur over a relatively long period of time, but tribal elders and harvesters have been noticing changes, such as declining numbers of waabooz (snowshoe hare), many of which Scientific Ecological Knowledge has been slower to document. The Traditional Ecological Knowledge of elders and harvesters who have lived and subsisted in a particular ecosystem can provide a valuable and nuanced understanding of ecological conditions on a smaller, more localized scale. Integrating this Traditional Ecological Knowledge with Scientific Ecological Knowledge in climate change initiatives provides a more complete understanding of climate change impacts.136 Community input to tribal adaptation plans ensures that Traditional Ecological Knowledge can be used to produce adaptation strategies trusted by community members.314