2014 – The Hottest Year Ever

As reported in the Journal Scientific American, data released by the Japan Meteorological Agency, shows 2014 has taken the title of hottest year on record.  All 10 of the hottest years have come since 1998.

Often, the impacts of our changing climate seem far away, and not relevant to our daily lives.  But it is relevant and already affecting us.  The Union of Concerned Scientists has modeled the effects of climate change in various regions in the U.S.  If you live in Illinois, continue reading for a summary of what we can expect in the coming years.



Bringing It Home

The  projects that by the end of the 21st century Illinois temperatures will rise 7–13 degrees F in winter and 9-18 degrees F in summer. This dramatic warming is roughly the same as that which has occurred since the last ice age. According UCS, if current pollution trends continue, toward the end of the century Illinois will experience:

Far More Scorching Summers:

  • Every summer in Illinois would be hotter than 1983—the hottest summer during the historical baseline.
  • Chicago would experience more than 70 days per summer with highs over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) and a month of days with highs over 100°F.
  • Chicago would face at least two heat waves per summer like the one that killed hundreds in Chicago in 1995, and one heat wave every other summer like the even deadlier European heat wave of 2003.
  • Air quality would deteriorate, as hotter weather causes more severe smog problems (assuming similar levels of tailpipe and smokestack emissions). This would have serious consequences for public health, including a greater incidence of asthma attacks and other respiratory conditions.

Dangerous Storms/Flooding:

  • Heavy rains would become more common throughout the year, leading to a greater incidence of flash flooding.
  • Winters and springs, when the flood risk is already high, would become more than 25% wetter.

New Threats to Agriculture:

  • Crops and livestock would face substantially more heat stress, decreasing crop yields and livestock productivity.
  • Warmer winters and a growing season up to six weeks longer would enable pests like the corn earworm to expand their range.
  • Crop production would be inhibited by changing rain patterns such as wetter springs (which delay planting and increase flood risk) and almost 15% less rain during the increasingly hot summers.

There Are Solutions!

And the Union of Concerned Scientists says there is still time to avoid the most catastrophic consequence of climate change. Illinois is the sixth largest producer of global warming emissions in the U.S. That’s the bad news.  The good news is that there is lots of room for improvement!

For example, the generation of electricity and transportation account for 85% of the state’s emissions.  And, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Illinois generates about 30% more electricity than it uses, exporting the excess to other states.

So what can be done?  Here in Illinois we can:

  • Increase energy efficiency and conservation in industries and homes.
  • Boost the use of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar and geothermal energy from it’s current 1% of the energy mix.
  • Improve vehicle fuel efficiency, but more importantly, reduce the number of miles driven.
  • Reduce heat trapping emissions from current soil tilling and fertilizer application agricultural practices.

These actions not only would lessen greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce energy costs, create jobs, and enhance air and water quality.  That means:

  • Changing our personal actions and behaviors to consume less and lower our carbon footprints as we lower our demand for energy.

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