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Climate Change Researcher Talks Illinois Impact

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Climate change researcher Amir Jina says Illinois will see the effects of climate change on agriculture.

The impact of climate change on Illinois is a lot more than switching from hot days to cold days.

That’s according to University of Chicago Assistant Professor of Public Policy and climate change researcher Amir Jina, who said the state’s agriculture will be hit hard.

“We’ll see, as you’d expect, that some of those crops are going to be exposed to more frequently high temperatures, and that there will be some losses involved with that,” Jina said.

Jina spoke on GLT's Sound Ideas ahead of his presentation at Illinois Wesleyan University on Thursday.

As a result of more hot days, Jina said mortality and illness rates will increase. From there, the economy will see a negative impact due to increased fatigue of workers on days that temperatures skyrocket, he explained.

Jina researches the impact climate change has on economies around the globe.

He said when comparing dollar to dollar losses, the impact on a smaller, less developed nation may not seem so severe. But, he used the example of heat, much like it impacts Illinois. In a less developed country where residents rely so heavily on their own crops, the impact of heat by losing crops can first lose the farmer money, and second, cause hunger.

He drew similar comparisons between countries without air conditioning, and the impact of severe heat, much like the 1995 Chicago heat wave that killed over 700 residents.

The United Nations released its annual climate report recently, which showed the world facing dangerous risks due to climate change by 2040. The report detailed the death of coral reefs, increased wildfires and food shortages, to name a few.

But Jina said media reaction blew the UN’s report out of proportion.

“There was some quite emphatic headlines stating that we have 10 years or 12 years to try and reduce the effects of climate change,” Jina said. “There’s some truth to that, but I think the real story is a bit more complicated. I think at any point, we have the ability to do something about climate change.”

He said the longer we wait to enact policies that will stifle climate change, the more expensive it will become to slow down its effects.

Jina is a founder of the Climate Impact Lab, a collaborative effort compiling the impact of climate change around the world.

Jina’s speech at IWU is part of the university’s Changing Climates series. The event is free and open to the public.

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