The Midwestern United States faces potential disruptions to its agricultural economy, and dangerous levels of heat in many of its largest cities, if climate change continues unabated, according to a new report released today by the Risky Business Project and sponsored by the Paulson Institute. Heat in the Heartland: Climate Change and Economic Risk in the Midwest details how extreme heat—the signature impact of a changing climate—could transform the Midwest’s economy. Absent significant adaptation, overall crop yields will likely decline, potentially shifting growing patterns for major commodity crops to the north and putting individual farming communities at risk. Left unchecked, a changing climate will also increase the incidence of extreme heat, particularly in the Midwest’s southernmost cities like St. Louis, Des Moines and Indianapolis, leading to significant public health and safety risks.
However, the report shows that the Midwest can still avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate if it joins in efforts to reduce the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The results of the report were presented today by Paulson Institute Chairman Hank Paulson and Cargill Chairman Greg Page at the Economic Club of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
At the launch event, Paulson and Page mapped out their concerns about the impacts of climate change. Page acknowledged that climate change is “controversial” among farmers, but said he decided to support the project because it’s important to acknowledge the challenge and do something to guarantee food safety. Paulson reiterated the report’s core message: “Our business leaders, our cities, and our investment community need to focus on these risks and act now before it’s too late.”
“As a lifelong Midwesterner, I’m gravely concerned that our ‘business as usual’ path is dangerous, unsustainable and threatens our way of life,” Paulson added. “Climate change poses a tremendous threat to key sectors of the Midwest economy, particularly manufacturing and agriculture.”