09:22 AM

Climate change planning underway for central Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio—A task force led by researchers at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center (BPCRC) at The Ohio State University has released a draft action plan to help central Ohio prepare for climate change.

The public is invited to review and comment on the report through March 9, after which the task force will present a finalized document to the Columbus City Council and Mayor Andrew Ginther.

BPCRC researchers collaborated with more than 75 local stakeholders and technical experts to develop the action plan, which outlines recommendations for adapting to extreme heat, deteriorating air quality, flooding, varied water quality and other changes that are expected to come with climate change. The report also addresses considerations for emergency preparedness and protecting vulnerable populations.

Jason Cervenec

Jason Cervenec, education and outreach director for BPCRC and chair of the task force, said that public feedback is essential to the action plan’s success.

“We want to make sure that those individuals who have not been directly involved in the process, who may be long-term residents of the city or experts in fields that have not yet contributed, have a chance to provide information,” said Cervenec.

“Our goal has been to cast a wide net to provide the city with a comprehensive document that can best inform its operations and planning. While the city will need to decide how to address each of the actions recommended in the document, we believe it’s important to empower citizens, while there is time to act, with knowledge of the climate change impacts that experts agree are likely to occur.”

Other cities around the country, including Chicago and Baltimore, have developed similar action plans. So have Toledo, Dayton, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.

“Many cities are developing action plans, but I would argue that ours is one of the most comprehensive in the Midwest. We first explored the climate impacts, risks, and vulnerabilities facing Columbus and built the document to directly address those concerns,” Cervenec said.

That previous report shows that average annual temperatures in Columbus rose by 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit from 1951 through 2012—higher than both national and global averages. At the same time, Columbus precipitation totals have risen nearly 20 percent and heavy storms are happening more than 30 percent more frequently.The recommendations build upon a prior report, Climate Change in Columbus, Ohio, developed in 2016 through a collaboration among the university, the City of Columbus and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment team.

Central Ohio is likely to see increasing temperatures—especially at night—along with flash-flooding and bouts of low water quality over the coming decades, according to the task force. The biggest risks come from warmer, wetter conditions for most of the year, with increased likelihood of flash-flooding and potentially more property damage in Columbus during the spring through fall.

Taken together, the projections suggest that young and elderly residents of central Ohio will be especially vulnerable to heat stress in summer. Homes and businesses will need to consume more electricity for air conditioning. And while Columbus is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation—with an expected influx of at least half a million people by 2035—construction companies will have to contend with workers laboring in extreme heat as they build new infrastructure.

Dealing with these expected challenges will require the public and private sectors to work together to find solutions, Cervenec said. He hopes that the Columbus action plan can serve as a model for other regions of the state that support both urban and agricultural life.

Residents can submit their feedback through March 9 on a web form at https://bpcrc.osu.edu/columbus, and address questions to Cervenec at 614-688-0080 or Cervenec.1@osu.edu.