Climate Change in the Midwest

Climate change is impacting communities around the world and we’re feeling the effects right here in the Midwest. Every day, it seems, a new study comes out with data about the adverse effects that climate change will have on our communities, our health and our economy. As natural disasters, ecosystem damage, and economic stressors increase, our most vulnerable global populations are likely to feel the brunt of these effects, fueling migration and regional infrastructure needs. Our region is the source of 22% of the nation’s carbon dioxide pollution, generated by many old industrial and coal-fired power plants and the transportation network centered in Chicago. ELPC’s Great Lakes Climate Change report lays out the devastating effects of climate change in the Great Lakes region.

It’s clear that the time for climate action is now. ELPC is paving the way for the Midwest to become a leader on climate change solutions through clean renewable energy, energy efficient policies, clean air standards enforcement, and clean transportation innovation. The Midwest can be a center for equitable solutions that are good for the economy and environment.

What is ELPC Doing?

We take a multifaceted approach to climate change solutions:

  • Climate Cities – When the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, mayors across the country stepped up to combat climate change. ELPC works with Midwestern cities to reduce carbon pollution and transform their public commitments into meaningful climate actions.
  • Clean Transportation – Transportation is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. ELPC advances solutions that can reduce pollution and spur economic development, such as electric vehicles and high-speed rail. Our vision is a Midwest where residents have freedom of increased mobility and clean, safe travel options.
  • Clean Energy – Electricity production is the #2 source of climate change pollution, because most of our electricity still comes from burning coal and natural gas, especially here in the Midwest. ELPC advances energy efficiency policies to save people money and use our resources wisely, and our work to help realize clean energy solutions like wind and solar create jobs and independence from fossil fuels.
  • Clean Air – Although clean energy and transportation solutions are growing in the Midwest, the old, dirty systems will be around for a while, and we must address their adverse effects on public health in the meantime. ELPC’s legal experts advocate for and enforce strong air quality standards to protect the public from both the long-term dangers of carbon emissions and the immediate threats from dozens of toxic gases and air particles. Requiring coal plants, diesel vehicles, and other sources to comply with the law and install modern pollution control technology saves lives.
  • Clean Water – The Midwest is blessed with precious freshwater resources, from the Mississippi river and the Great Lakes to our many little lakes and streams. Scientists predict that a warming planet will mean more global challenges with water, with excess flooding in some places and drought in others. Our drinking water is also at risk as more rain will likely cause more agricultural runoff and toxic algal blooms in the lakes we rely on. It has never been more critical to protect our waters and prepare our infrastructure to withstand any turbulence ahead.
  • Wild & Natural Places – Forests, wetlands, and other natural places help to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, offsetting approximately 11% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. Not only are these lands essential for biodiversity in our ecosystem and core to our cultural connections with the land, but they are also important in our fight against climate change. ELPC protects natural spaces across the region.


Fourth National Climate Assessment – Volume I, 2017 (Science), Volume II, 2018 (Impacts, Risks, & Adaptation in U.S.)

Midwestern Regional Climate Center – University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions by State, 2000-2015 (EIA, 2018)

Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions – U.S. EPA, 2016

Climate Change in the Windy City and the World booklet [PDF] – Field Museum Climate Action Toolkit (2012)

Wisconsin adaptation and mitigation videosClimate Wisconsin (2010-2019)


These climate change solutions create new jobs, grow the economy and protect public health in communities throughout the Midwest.

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

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