CHICAGO (CBS) — By the end of this century, Chicago could be dealing with three times as many 90-plus-degree days, if not more.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Center for Integrated Data Statistics Downscaled Climate Data Portal crunched the numbers and came up with what amounts to a long term forecast that tries to predict the impact of climate change on temperatures in the coming decades.
The Nature Conservancy took that data and created a time-lapse map showing how the contiguous United States could be affected in 25-year chunks.
Chicago currently has up to 30 days of 90-degree or hotter weather each year. By 2099, the city is predicted to have between 60-90 of those days, based on current emissions released into the air and how those emissions will continue into the future.
Jeff Walk, acting director of conservation for the Nature Conservancy in Illinois. said the data serve as a warning “so that they can be ready to adapt to some of those changes, and be prepared, and understand the consequences if climate change is allowed to progress uncontrolled.”
“It’s frightening, and it’s daunting, and it’s the reality that confronts us unless we make changes as a society very soon,” he added.
According to the century-long forecast, the weather in Chicago under uncontrolled Global Warming would be like Dallas or some other city in the south; meaning mild winters and extremely hot summers.
Walk said the rise in temperatures would impact everything from urban policy to energy consumption to agriculture.
For example, it might be too hot to grow corn.
“Other crops that are more heat tolerant might become more prevalent in Illinois and the West,” he said.
He also said it’s not as easy as it sounds to grow corn or other common Illinois crops in other parts of the world.
“Soil types are very important to plant communities and crops, but those soils are not going to be migrating with the climate, and so there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of complexity in terms of understanding what kind of changes are going to happen in agricultural and natural systems,” he said.
Walk said humans must adapt to the changing climate, and make a concerted worldwide effort to slow carbon emissions.
“We need to really redouble our efforts as a society to reduce emissions; and not just our society in the United States, but globally to reduce those emissions so that the truly disastrous results that are projected under the path that we’re on now are not realized for our children and grandchildren,” he said.