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Chicago Copes With Global Warming

After receiving advice from climate scientists, Chicago’s city planners are preparing for a warmer future by engineering more adaptable infrastructure and planting warmer-climate trees. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Aaron N. Durnbaugh, deputy commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment, said: “Cities adapt or they go away.” To this end, Chicago is beginning to make changes in how it maintains its city. “Public alleyways are being repaved with materials that are permeable to water. The white oak, the state tree of Illinois, has been banned from city planting lists, and swamp oaks and sweet gum trees from the South have been given new priority. Thermal radar is being used to map the city’s hottest spots, which are then targets for pavement removal and the addition of vegetation to roofs.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Global warming hasn’t gone away, just out of the public eye. “Climate change is happening in both real and dramatic ways, but also in slow, pervasive ways,” said commissioner Durbaugh. “We can handle it, but we do need to acknowledge it. We are on a 50-year cycle, but we need to get going.” Chicago, typically considered second fiddle to New York, is ahead of the Big Apple when it comes to climate adaptation. According to scientists, it is especially vulnerable to changing weather patterns: “If world carbon emissions continued apace, the scientists said, Chicago would have summers like the Deep South…”


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