The Midwest US, known for its vast agricultural plots, used to be known for its prairies, useful in earlier times for free-range grazing land. Today, however, less than 1% of the original prairies remain, the other >99% converted to agricultural use, mainly corn and cattle.
The Midwest is also known for the Great Lakes and Great Plains, seemingly opposed notions, but their placement makes them ideal for the movement of agricultural products, heavy machinery, and freshwater produce, as well as being a gateway for products and people moving coast to coast and pretty much anywhere in between.
According to a recent study by the University of Michigan [UM], much of this could change in the next 75 years as climate change continues to wreak havoc on our ecosystem. More than 240 scientists who took part in writing the National Climate Assessment, covering everything from land and water use to our ability to adapt to changing weather patterns and overall climate conditions.
One thing to keep in mind is that, while the terms “climate change” and “global warming” are often used interchangeably, this doesn’t mean that winter will disappear. Warmer average temperatures only mean more extreme conditions, winters get colder, summers get hotter, heat waves get longer, and storms get more severe.
Director of the Graham Sustainability Institute and UM aquatic ecologist Donald Scavia said, “Climate change impacts in the Midwest are expected to be as diverse as the landscape itself. Impacts are already being felt in the forests, in agriculture, in the Great Lakes and in our urban centers.” In the Great Lakes, climate change will likely move important commercial and recreational fish species, if not kill them off altogether.
The great corn crops might see additional yields due to increasing carbon dioxide levels, but will have less nutritional content per pound. The increasing threat of heat waves, floods, and droughts, though, might lead to further crop losses in the future.
The majority of climate change scientists recognize that, since the Industrial Revolution, mankind has been the key factor in climate change, outside of normal historical climate fluctuations. Unless something is done immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, specifically carbon dioxide, the worst offender, then climate change will be even worse than it already is. Research suggests that if GHG emissions are cut today, global temperatures will rise by 3.8°F by 2050. If nothing is done, research projects a 4.9°F rise. The Midwest, specifically, could see a 5.6°F rise if emissions are cut, and up to 8.5°F if nothing is done.