Cleveland and Other Midwest Cities Prepare for Global Warming

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Scientist predict that global warming will set off a growing number of extreme weather events such as floods, tornadoes, or the heat wave that killed more than 700 people in Chicago in 1995.  Cities are beginning to make preparations and Cleveland recently hosted a Midwestern summit organized by the Center for American Progress on the subject of “resilient cities.”    

Cleveland’s Chief of Sustainability, Jenita McGowan, says the poor suffer most in natural disasters and the city has been working to alleviate that.

”Better quality housing, lowering their utility bills so that in a high heat or a really cold event they can afford air conditioning or heat in their home.  The city has an emergency operations plan around this:  cooling centers, heating centers, etc.  So a lot of the pieces and parts are there but they’re not really there with an eye toward how much frequent and severe these things could be with climate change.” 

McGowan would like to see an increase in the tree canopy, now at just 19%, to cool the city and absorb flood water.   Most of the trees, she says, would be located on private land.

Cleveland is a partner in a new program that reaches out to neighborhood residents for their ideas in preparing for extreme weather.  The city received praise from Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, for its home weatherization, energy efficiency programs,  and efforts in storm water management.   

She said the Obama Administration is investing in community solutions and noted that 13 states received $1 billion dollars in disaster recovery funds through the National Disaster Resilience Competition. 

“From coastal protection and storm water management to relocation assistance for the most distressed communities, entire communities that are now facing the question of where are they going to move to because their land may no longer exist.” 

Cleveland is in better shape than most cities because it appears climate change will have less disastrous consequences here and because the region has an ample water supply. 

McGowan noted that region also has some built in redundancy with 4 water intakes and 4 treatments centers plus three networked sewage treatment facilities.  The experts still argue more needs to be done to prepare for extreme weather.


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