Chicago Prepares for Climate Change
This year, the officials of one city seem to be prepared for it. The officials from Chicago are preparing for a permanent heat wave. Climate scientists have told the city planners that if they do not do anything about it, by the end of this century, the city will be affected by excruciating heat waves, similar to the ones from the southern region. Because of this, the city is getting prepared for the hotter future. They have repaved the public alleyways with materials that are permeable to water. They have also decided to replace the white oak, the symbol tree of the state, with the swamp oaks and sweet gum trees from the South. They use thermal radar in order to detect the hottest spots of the city. They want to add vegetation on these areas and to remove the pavements from them. They want to add air-conditioning systems to all the 750 public schools from Chicago. Very few of them benefit from these cooling systems. Aaron N. Durnbaugh, deputy commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment, said that the cities have two options: they either adapt to these changes and survive, or ignore them and face the consequences.
He said that these climate changes occur at a very slow rate, but even so they should be taken in consideration. Even if the rates are slow, they are still damaging. In order to be able to adapt to them, the changes need to be made now. However, not everybody agrees with him. In the Congress there are lots of debates on the subject of climate change, as there are many politicians who do not believe that it exists. The skeptics are concerned about the costs of the changes, but even so, the city planners are starting to prepare for the possible changes. It is hard to determine just how much we the humans have influenced the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, and the way in which these increases will affect us. According to the scientists, one of the biggest influences will be the rise of the sea levels. Besides those changes, there will be lots of changes in the weather: blizzards and extreme tornadoes will take on a regular basis. The heat waves will be more and more powerful.
Chicago is not the only city preparing for these changes. New York is as well, and the officials are afraid that the city will be flooded because of the increasing sea levels. The scientists have stated that if the Arctic sea will melt, then the equivalent of a new sea will appear. In some of the cases, the changes need to be made as soon as possible. For example in the high-risk areas, the insurance companies threaten to increase the prices, if the threat is not eliminated. Swiss Re, one of the biggest insurance companies has stated that if changes will not be made very soon to the Gulf Coast states, then they will increase their insurance prices by 65 percent. Mark D. Way, head of Swiss Re’s sustainable development for the Americas, said that the society needs to make sure that it isn’t vulnerable to the climate changes. As long as they are not vulnerable, they can still remain assured. Melissa Stults, the climate director for ICLEI USA, an association of local governments, said that many of the officials she was working with incorporated these changes.
Chicago has always been the city which acted first on numerous occasions, even if it known at the Second City. From an environmental point of view, things started to change in 2006, when Richard M. Daley was the mayor. He said that he was influenced by the Kyoto international treaty for reducing carbon emissions, which was established in 2005. On top of that, he knew that if he would make the Windy City an environmentally friendly town, then more people will come to visit it. He wanted to see the way in which these changes would be made at a local level. He received money from various foundations. Adele Simmons, president of Global Philanthropy Partnership, one of the foundations, which offered $700,000, said that the investors believe that Chicago can make a difference, and that it can encourage the other cities to make the same changes.
The experts analyzed the weather patterns from 15 different spots of the city, and they also analyzed the way in which Lake Michigan reacted to these temperature changes. The city planners were shocked by the results. The climate scientologists have stated that if the carbon emissions would continue to rise at the same pace as they do nowadays, then the temperatures could get extremely high by the end of the century. They said that more than 72 days could have temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or 32 degrees Celsius. In the past period of time, especially in the 20th century, there were 15 days with such temperatures, on an average. By 2070, the precipitations during winter and autumn are expected to grow by 35 percent. However, during the summer they are expected to decrease by 20 percent. According to the experts, these changes are extremely dangerous, even if they do not seem like it.
They have said that around 1,200 people could lose their lives because of the heat waves in the future years. The buildings would sustain lots of damage because they would thaw and freeze much more often. The experts then analyzed which changes would be the most effective while costing the city the least amount of money. Suzanne Malec-McKenna, the commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment, said that these changes were based on political, economic and technical factors. She said that there were numerous propositions regarding the changes which should be made, and that many of them were rejected. Someone stated that the coal power plants shut be immediately shut down. Even though they pollute very much, such a thing is impossible because the city would lose an incredible amount of money. The Civic Consulting Alliance helped the city with the actions that were considered to be necessary but too expensive. The company offered the city $14 million worth of hours to projects such as creating an infrastructure for electric cars, reducing the pollution of the city, and so on.
The biggest of the changes will be made at the paved spaces. They are the ones which trap the heat in the area, and they need to be removed or replaced. Janet L. Attarian, a director of streetscapes at the city’s Department of Transportation, said that this is a big issue and that it needs to be addressed. There are 13,000 concrete alleyways in the city which have no drainage. Because of this, every time it rains, those streets get flooded. Another problem is the fact that both the storm overflow water and raw sewage water are handled by the same pipes. Because of it, many of the dirty water ends up in the Chicago River. The officials have approved the planting of various drought removing plants such as butterfly weed and spartina grasses, and more than 150 alleyways have been equipped with permeable pavement which reduces the flood odds.
However, these new changes will require maintenance. The trees should be taken care of, and the permeable pavement should be cleaned very often, otherwise it could clog. The trees some to be very important as well, as besides making the city much more attractive, they also make it more efficient when it comes to eliminating pollution. The city plants about 2,200 trees each year, and it has done it since 1991. However, in order to be certain that the trees will survive, the species of trees had to be changed with ones from the South that are able to withstand higher temperatures.11