Climate Change in Northeast Ohio

The U.S. accounts for 20% of world CO2, and the Midwest is responsible for 5% of global greenhouse gases. Cuyahoga County, specifically, is the 4th largest CO2-emitting county in the U.S.

In Northeast Ohio, destabilized climate patterns will contribute to a warmer and shallower lake, increased local weather variability, deteriorated air quality, and worsened water quality. The predictable consequences of climate change/climate disruption will imperil the health of people in Northeast Ohio in a number of ways:

  • increased precipitation during winters and springs with more frequent, heavy downpours
  • decreased air quality, resulting in increased respiratory and cardiac disorders like asthma
  • increased allergy-related diseases
  • increased infestations of insects that cause disease, such as mosquitoes and ticks
  • increased costs of transportation, healthcare, utilities, food, and housing
  • increased cost of living
  • more heat waves during the summer, resulting in a higher demand for energy

To read a complete report of potential consequences of climate change for Ohio: Union of Concerned Scientists’ Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Midwest (July 2009).

The charts below are from the Green City Blue Lake Sustainability Center of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History:

Climate Change and Air Pollution:

Increased summer temperatures (above 90 degrees) because of climate destabilization will cause higher levels of ground-level ozone, a key irritant for those suffering from respiratory illnesses. Ozone decreases lung function and is linked to premature deaths, especially in people suffering from heart and lung disease. In addition, increased demand for energy to cool off cities like Cleveland during hot days will lead to increased use of power plants that contribute to small particulate pollution, another trigger that exacerbates respiratory illness in sensitive individuals. Furthermore, a study published in Environmental Science Technology found that increased CO2 levels in urban areas promote feedbacks in temperature, atmospheric stability, water vapor, humidity, winds, and precipitation conditions that result in even greater levels of ozone and particulate matter. The effects of climate change on air pollution thus have serious detrimental consequences for human health.

Climate Change and Heat Waves:

Climate change will exacerbate summer heat levels as temperatures rise between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. While every part of the world will be affected, urban areas will suffer most from high heat levels due to their prevalence of asphalt, concrete, and other materials that reradiate heat into the surrounding neighborhoods. Low-income areas where residents can’t afford air conditioning and weatherization will suffer most from the heat. Since 49% of Clevelanders are without central air conditioning, heat waves will hit Cleveland hard.

Read a Plain Dealer article from a conference on EHW’s own roof about the effects of future heat waves on Cleveland.

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