The Windy City is preparing for a heat wave — a permanent one.
Climate scientists have told city planners that, based on current trends, Chicago will feel more like Baton Rouge than a Northern metropolis before the end of this century.
So, Chicago is getting ready for a wetter, steamier future. Public alleyways are being repaved with materials that are permeable to water. The white oak, the state tree of Illinois, has been banned from planting lists, and swamp oaks and sweet gum trees from the South have been given new priority. Thermal radar is being used to map the city’s hottest spots, which are then targets for pavement removal as well as the addition of vegetation to the roofs. And air-conditioners are being considered for all 750 public schools, which until now have been heated but rarely cooled.
“Cities adapt or they go away,” said Aaron N. Durnbaugh, deputy commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment. “Climate change is happening in both real and dramatic ways but also in slow, pervasive ways. We can handle it, but we do need to acknowledge it. We are on a 50-year cycle, but we need to get going.”