Chicago, Illinois – Every Illinoisian lives in a county that has recently suffered from a weather-related disaster, such as the historic flood of April 2013, according to a new interactive map created using data from the federal government. Scientists say global warming is already exacerbating some extreme weather events and their impacts.
“We used to think of climate change as a problem that would happen someday, somewhere,” said Travis Madsen, Climate Campaign Director for Environment Illinois. “But as this map helps demonstrate, global warming is happening now, and it’s already hitting close to home.”
Environment Illinois researchers, who created the online map, found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared disasters related to severe storms, floods or droughts in all 102 of the state’s counties between 2010 and 2015.
Scientists predict unchecked global warming will increase the frequency, severity and the catastrophic impacts of major storms, like the nearly unprecedented downpour that triggered the April 2013 floods. After days of rain, the Illinois, Fox and Des Plaines rivers rose to record levels, submerging roads and buildings. Many residents were forced to evacuate. The disaster area spanned 38 counties, including Cook County and the Chicago metropolitan area.
“As climate change and extreme weather intensifies, the ripple effects for our economy and infrastructure will certainly be felt by state, local and federal budgets that are already stretched thin,” said Cook County Clerk David Orr.
The map reveals that nationwide, more than 40 million Americans live in counties that were affected by more than five weather disasters over the last five years, while counties housing 96 percent of the population experienced declared disasters at least once.
The analysis comes as Illinois is figuring out how to implement the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever limit on global warming pollution from power plants in the state. Last Thursday, health, faith and clean energy leaders from across Illinoisdelivered nearly 35,000 petitions to Governor Rauner, urging the governor to support the Clean Power Plan and to clean energy resources like wind, solar and energy efficiency as the most effective tools to reduce pollution.
It also comes just weeks before world leaders convene in Paris to reach an international agreement to slash global warming emissions, and as opponents of climate action in Congress are preparing to vote on a measure to repeal the Clean Power Plan – with a vote coming as soon as today. Illinois’ Senator Mark Kirk will be a key voice on the measure.
“This issue affects everyone in Illinois,” said Madsen. “So it is crucial that Senator Kirk support the Clean Power Plan, the biggest single step the United States has taken so far to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.”
Since the pre-industrial era, average global temperature has increased by nearly a degree Celsius, and climate scientists view another degree increase as untenable, leading to increasingly extreme weather events that will make parts of the world uninhabitable.
“To avoid even more dangerous climate impacts,” said Madsen, “we need our leaders to act boldly to slash carbon pollution and transition to 100 percent clean renewable energy.”
“Shifting to clean energy will not only limit the dangers of climate change but create new jobs in our communities,” concluded Orr.
Environment Illinois is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentIllinois.org