Global Warming – What’s At Stake


New: View Our Slideshow About Global Warming Impacts

The Science
The Effect
Local Causes
Local Solutions

The Science

There has been consensus among scientists for years that global warming is a serious problem and that it is caused by human activity.

Basically, “global warming” or “global climate change” refers to an increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans over time. This temperature rise is the result of an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide and aerosols, in our atmosphere.

When sunlight strikes the Earth’s surface, some of it is reflected back toward space as infrared radiation or heat. Greenhouse gases absorb this infrared radiation and trap the heat in the atmosphere. Normal amounts of gases are what keep the Earth warm and habitable. But when these gasses build up beyond the normal levels and at a rate that the environment cannot alleviate, global warming results.

The Effect

Global warming is a serious threat to the environment that sustains our health, our economy, and our security.

An increased global temperature will shift ecosystems. Glaciers will retreat, altering water supply for habitats and millions of people. Plant productivity and vitality will change, destroying fragile ecosystems. Freshwater bodies, including the Great Lakes, will decline, affecting water supplies and wildlife habitat.

An increased global temperature will affect our health and well-being. As temperatures rise, disease-carrying mosquitoes and rodents spread, infecting people in their wake. The increased number of hot, smoggy days will cause increasing frequency and intensity of lung-related illnesses, including asthma. What’s more, the increasing intensity and frequency of “natural” disasters can destroy people’s homes and livelihoods.

An increased global temperature will dramatically change global economies. In addition to the expensive damage caused by ever-increasing catastrophic weather events, many industries will be touched by global warming. Some are more obvious – like the ski industry for lack of snow – but many more are affected in more nuanced ways. For example, as temperatures rise, certain insects might survive longer in the year and affect the crops that provide raw materials for any number of manufacturers and consumers.

An increased global temperature will affect our national security. The more attention we must divert to cleaning up after a hurricane or rebuilding an industry after it’s been decimated by global climate impacts, the fewer resources we have to divert to keeping our country secure.

Local Causes

The Midwest is at the center of our global warming problems.

Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin account for 20% of the carbon pollution in the United States with only 5% of the world’s total pollution. The Midwest alone is responsible for more global warming pollution than most countries across the globe except for China, India, Russia and Japan. There are several factors that make the Midwest critical to global warming solutions, namely:

  • The Midwest has the largest concentration of old, dirty coal plants that produce large amounts of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.
  • As the hub on the U.S. transportation industry, the crossroads of America has developed a heavy carbon burden.

Local Solutions

The Midwest has the potential to be at the center of our global warming solutions.

Clean technologies mean a cleaner world for all. Not only do modern technologies reduce carbon pollution, they reduce other harmful pollutants that poison our lakes, make our land infertile, and harm human health. To help reduce global warming pollution, we are helping to make our energy and transportation systems more efficient, protect our forest ecosystems, wildlife and biodiversity, and improve our air quality and protect peoples’ health.

We need the political and economic capital to make clean energy decisions happen today. For example, renewable energy, such as wind and solar , currently supplies about 2% of the region’s electricity supply. We have the technology to meet 20% of our energy supply needs through clean, renewable energy. The result – a 51% reduction in carbon dioxide – is a larger reduction than proposed by the Kyoto Treaty.

Clean car technology, electric vehicles, and high-speed rail systems can produce more efficient, less polluting transportation options while creating needed manufacturing jobs. We have the technology, but we can only achieve success by avoiding roadblocks and creating policies that reduce pollution.

News


ClimateWire: Iowa’s scientists release statement on health effects of climate change

Professors and scientists in Iowa last week emphasized the tangible effects climate change will have on local lives. Over 180 science faculty members and researchers from 38 colleges endorsed this year’s Iowa Climate Statement, which was released at the Iowa Capitol on Friday. The aim of the statement is to increase Iowans’ access to resources […]  Read More