City leaders discuss effects of climate change, prepare plan of action

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- With subzero temperatures in one week and 40 degrees the next, climate change is on top of mind for most, or should be.

On Wednesday, local leaders and professors with a passion for climate change discussed how to ensure South Bend is prepared for climate change and described what our environment will look like in 60 years from now.

“Our climate is changing; how do we prepare for it?” asks Deputy Director for the Saine Joseph County Emergency Management Agency Jim Lopez.

The answer is adaptation and changing with the climate.

It’s a new focus for the city of South Bend as climate change trends show major impacts heading our way.

With an updated climate action plan for the city due this year, South Bend's Office of Sustainability walked through key research findings that will influence future growth and infrastructure.

Adaptation is a key piece, paired with mitigation, meaning reducing pollution.

“Emissions reductions is something we’re not forgetting about,” says Director for the City’s Office of Sustainability, Alex Bazán. “It’ll continue to be a key aspect of the strategies and actions that we have moving forward with the city.”

Changing with the climate means being prepared for disasters and building resilient infrastructure.

The research predicts that within the next 60 years, South Bend will see strong temperature warming in all seasons, as well as an increased intensity of precipitation, which both have lasting impacts on our society’s human health, ecosystems, and economics.

“It’s certainly true that with South Bend and Northern Indiana expecting to see increased precipitation in the winter, spring, and fall,” explains Alan Hamlet, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame. “We expect more ground water to be recharged than what we have historically, so that suggests our water supply will be quite sustainable, so that’s a plus. On the other hand, we have these increasing extremes and increasing temperature.”

For example, Hamlet suggests river flooding will increase in both intensity and frequency. So, neighborhoods surrounding the Saint Joseph River will need to prepare for extreme effects of flooding down the road.

He says it’s something the city can learn from and adapt to by looking at other city’s strategies when drafting the climate action plan.

“It’s an education process and I think sometimes it helps to look at in other places, what they had to deal with, what are the unexpected things that came, and how did they deal with that,” Hamlet suggests.

Next, the city will hold a climate action plan launch event in March, followed by opportunities for public engagement to get input from residents. They’re aiming for a finalized plan at the end of 2024.

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