St. Louis to Get Hotter, Wetter, NRDC Report Says

Floods, like the one that took acres of farmland along the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers this spring, will become even more common, the NRDC warns.
Floods, like the one that took acres of farmland along the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers this spring, will become even more common, the NRDC warns.
A new report from the National Resources Defense Council predicts all sorts of holy hell triggered by climate change, and St. Louis is one of the places that's given special mention. Basically, says the NRDC, our already muggy little city is about to get even muggier -- with heat, rain and intense storms all likely to increase.

Time to move to San Francisco!

Just kidding. As we learned by sitting in on a conference call with NRDC experts today, packing up our bags and getting the heck out of here is not an appropriate response, as just about every region of the country is expected to face crappier weather. For example, in the southwest, drought is only going to get worse -- even as we'll be drowning in water in the Midwest.
"We find there is no region or city immune to the water-related effects of climate change," says Michelle Mehta, one of the report's authors and a member of the NRDC's water program.

The report also attempts to ascertain what plans that cities have in place to deal with those changes. And, guess what: St. Louis gets singled out for special mention on that front.

It isn't good.

"St. Louis is one city that does not have a water-related plan" in place, Mehta reports.

The report goes into more detail:

In terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation, the city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri generally lag behind the other cities and states featured in this report. A lack of city-specific information on climate change vulnerability should prompt St. Louis to examine its situation more closely, particularly with regard to potential flooding and water supply issues. Meanwhile, the city is in the plan development stage as it works on its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory and sustainability plan, and such efforts should be supported by city officials. However, given that many cities have already gone beyond mitigation to focus on adaptive strategies to build resilience to the impacts of climate change, St. Louis would be well served to include considerations for adaptation in its sustainability planning efforts.
Dan Lashof, director of the agency's climate-change program, says that "deniers" of climate change can continue to debate whether the issue is real, but "cities don't have that luxury."

As for the details of that hot/wet future we have to look forward to: The report notes that overall precipitation has already increased 10 to 20 percent since the 1950s. "In the future, precipitation is expected to continue to increase, especially in winter and spring." That'll lead to rising water levels and potential flooding for some areas both north and south of the city.

Meanwhile, models predict a 36 percent increase in heat waves here, the report says. That means we're going to get an average of 1.9 heat waves per year instead of 1.4, which doesn't sound too bad, until you hear this part:

The models suggest that, in the future, the average St. Louis heat wave will last 14.2 days instead of 10.3. That's two solid weeks of muggy heat. Did we hear San Francisco calling? Never mind everything that the NRDC has predicted for them -- which, sadly, is everything from flooding to water supply challenges to sea levels swamping the airports. We're still getting out of here!

Sarah Fenske

Sarah Fenske is the executive editor of the RFT and its sister papers. She is the former host of St. Louis on the Air and continues to host its Legal Roundtable, as well participating as an occasional panelist on Nine PBS' Donnybrook. She lives in St. Louis.
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