What could climate change impacts look like in the St. Louis of the future? | St. Louis Public Radio

What could climate change impacts look like in the St. Louis of the future?

Jul 18, 2017

Maybe you've heard it suggested that as the impacts of climate change are felt more keenly in the coming century and sea levels rise, that people living on the coasts will move inward to the Midwest … a place like St. Louis, for example.

A recent New York Times article suggests that prospect may even be a little warmer than initially expected. What can we expect the St. Louis of the future, under the impacts of climate change, will be like?

On Tuesday's St. Louis on the Air, we delved into that question with Matthew Kahn, USC professor economics in the study of spatial science and environmental studies, and John Posey, director of research for the East-West Gateway Council of Governments. Posey is currently on the author team of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which is due to be published next year.

“St. Louis is getting warmer and wetter,” Posey said. “If you compare the last 30 years with the previous 30 years, we’ve seen about a 50 percent increase in the number of 95 degree days. We’ve seen about an eight percent increase in precipitation and more of that is coming in the form of very intense rainstorms, the kind associated with flash flooding on smaller streams and upstream on the Mississippi. Land use change has also been a big driver in recent years. It is that interaction between land use change and climate change that will determine risk in years to come.”

Temperatures have warmed globally by one degree Fahrenheit over the last century, Posey said, and predictions range between 6-10 degrees more of warming by the end of this century. How will St. Louis cope with that?

Kahn’s book “Climatopolis” posits that cities in the Midwest will compete against each other for jobs and people and that could actually help those cities grow.

“What will partially protect us in our hotter future will be cities, perhaps St. Louis, will step up and find ways to adapt to these challenges that will be a pro-growth strategy in the middle-term,” Kahn said. “If a city develops a reputation for facing less flooding, being able to cope with heat waves, both insurers will see this and, in this age of ubiquitous cell phone use, it will be common knowledge. If a city like St. Louis earns a reputation for being resilient, developers would invest there and young people will move there. Cities that are resilient will develop and boom.”

Listen as Posey and Kahn discuss how St. Louis is planning to cope with changes in climate and just what those changes might be:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.