Climate change is expected to have certain, but unforeseen, consequences on the urban environment. There have been few comprehensive assessments of climate change impacts on metropolitan areas in the US. Potential impacts range from effects on urban natural landscapes and green spaces, to changes in surrounding ecosystems, to implications for energy demands, water supplies, air quality, public health, as well as economic losses. Dense urban populations and the complexity of the infrastructure systems magnify negative consequences of climate change. The Milwaukee Working Group was formed to address this gap in our understanding of impacts and to formulate adaptation strategies for the built environment and surrounding natural systems of Wisconsin's urban areas.
The Milwaukee Working Group started in February 2008 to address the impacts that climate change will have on highly urbanized areas in the state of Wisconsin and Lake Michigan. This effort brings together a broad range of expertise to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to tackle some of the most challenging problems created by climate change. The goals of this working group are to:
As the climate changes, Wisconsin may see more heavy rain events and droughts. Decisions that relate to urban sewers and stormwater runoff should take these factors into account when planning for the future.
In addition to changes in precipitation and extreme event patterns, Wisconsinites will see hotter average summer temperatures through the next 20, 50 and 100 years, and Wisconsin may also see more days of extreme heat. City planners and residents need to be aware of these changes, and precautions need to be taken to prepare cities.
Additionally, as winters become warmer, temperatures may cross back and forth over the freezing point more often during the year. This fluctuation is important because it is one of the principal causes of road damage and potholes. Road repair costs the Wisconsin's cities and the Department of Transportation millions of dollars every year, not only on the repairs themselves, but also in lost revenue in areas made inaccessible by construction. Wisconsin may have to adjust its planning and infrastructure to adapt to these changes and reduce their negative impacts.
The Milwaukee working group is investigating these risks and interacting with climatologists to figure out how these climatic changes may impact Milwaukee and the other cities of Wisconsin.
In regards to vulnerabilities, the infrastructure of Wisconsin's cities is the most vulnerable to these projected changes. Roads and stormwater and sewer systems are directly affected by climate conditions, and the Milwaukee Working Group is investigating how to reduce the vulnerability of infrastructure to climate change.
Urban residents are also vulnerable to floods, heatwaves, and droughts. The impacts of increased frequency and intensity of these events needs to be investigated in depth if Wisconsin's cities are to prepare for the changing climate.
Data and Collaboration Needs
The Milwaukee Working Group has identified some strategies to acquire the information necessary to create adaptation plans and best collaborate with other scientists, climatologists, resource managers, and stakeholders:
The success of the Milwaukee Working Group will be closely related to the success of other groups within the climate change effort, including the Climate, Hydrology, and Public Health Working Groups.
In order to work towards effective climate change adaptation for Milwaukee and other urban areas within Wisconsin, the working group will be responsible for the delivery of the following: