The city of Columbus on Dec. 18 received an action plan containing 43 recommendations to help offset the expected increasing effects of climate change, such as more rain and rising temperatures.
A task force led by Ohio State University's Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center released a 125-page adaptation report to Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and members of Columbus City Council that detailed steps the city could take.
The report recommendations are divided into "necessary" and "aspirational" categories. The 21 necessary recommendations are the minimum steps the city should take, the report says.
Many of the recommendations require shoring up infrastructure and educating residents, including establishing a network of cooling centers, conducting educational campaigns for dealing with extreme heat, modernizing the electric grid so it is more resilient and reviewing city rules to ensure that current practices reduce flooding and sewage backups.
The report predicts central Ohio would continue to experience rising temperatures, particularly at night, as well as more rain events that can lead to flash floods and challenges with water quality.
Temperatures increased by 2.3 degrees from 1951 to 2012, which is higher than national and global averages, according to a report issued in 2016.
Precipitation levels also have increased by nearly 20 percent. Columbus has reached the second-highest annual total precipitation so far in 2018, based on weather records that date to 1879 and the National Weather Service in Wilmington said the city could pass the record for wettest year ever, set only seven years ago in 2011, at 54.96 inches.
"We're already facing changes. These will only become more magnified by midcentury," said Jason Cervenec, chairman of the Columbus Climate Adaptation Plan Task Force and the education and outreach director for the Byrd center.
By midcentury, the center predicts central Ohio will warm another 3 to 5 degrees, if air pollution from greenhouse-gas emissions is lowered. If emissions continue to increase, there could be an increase of 4 to 6 degrees instead.
"We do have the fastest-growing heat island in the country. That is the warming we've seen thus far," Cervenec said.
The population also is expected to increase in central Ohio. There will be at least 500,000 more people by 2035, according to projections.
Councilman Emmanuel Remy said the report and recommendations offer "a great opportunity to work with my colleagues, the administration, the Office of Sustainability to engage the public and to make sure that we work on this."
Remy acknowledged that explosive population growth in central Ohio would stress systems that the report says need to be addressed in order to fight climate change. He said city departments have to consider that as they make decisions.
Those who are expected to have the hardest time with climate change are the young and the elderly, who are more vulnerable to heat stress in summer.
Homes and businesses would have to use more electricity as the demand for air conditioning increases with rising temperatures. Those living in poverty likely would have a harder time if they do not have air conditioning or have to pay higher bills.
In the past, the city has ordered recreation centers to stay open longer during summer's excessive heat so people without access to air conditioning can cool off. It also has its Blueprint Columbus plan, which looks to channel rainwater that could contribute to combined-sewer overflows into "green" infrastructure, such as rain gardens, said Alana Shockey, assistant director for sustainability in the Columbus Department of Public Utilities.
Blueprint Columbus is the result of four years of work to research the effects, risks and vulnerabilities in the city. It's considered a working plan and will need to be updated, Cervenec said.
One thing the plan does not address is how the city can lower greenhouse-gas emissions, which actually cause the rising temperatures.
"This is a separate but related conversation that is of critical importance to avoid the worst impacts of climate change," Cervenec said.
Shockey said city officials plan to hire a consultant in early 2019 to help develop a plan to address some of the points the researchers raised, including lowering emissions. That will take about a year, but Shockey said the city already has been working on many of those issues.