Climate Change is Changing Ohio

Drive down I-75 or I-71, a couple of the major thoroughfares of the Buckeye State, and you wouldn’t know that climate change has affected Ohio. As there have been for generations, there are the usual farms, fast food outlets and billboards. The state doesn’t look particularly affected by climate change. But is being affected. The question is how will it be?

Nobody has a crystal ball, but there are a number of factors Ohioans should be monitoring.


Will climate change hurt home values? Will the weather push people out of the state or invite them into it? “Climate change has made Ohio unpredictable,” says Sam Davis, an environmental scientist who is an adjunct faculty instructor at Wright State University in Dayton. “The winters are light on snow but heavier on tornadoes, and I don’t think that’s the future anyone wanted. I worry about continued heavy storms outside of tornado season, and the impacts that those storms will have on forests, natural, and human communities across the state.”

Bird migration

For people who care about the birds, and there are a lot of them (45 million who consider themselves active bird watchers, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service), this should be worrisome. Climate change is making life harder for birds living in Ohio and for migratory birds passing through the state, says Matthew Shumar, the program coordinator of the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative at the Ohio State University in Columbus.

“Leaf out is occurring earlier, and that means the availability of certain foods comes earlier,” Shumar says. That can be a problem, he adds, if leaves appearing earlier draws out certain insects that migratory birds like, but the birds aren’t around yet to eat those insects.

“We expect more of that as climate change advances more rapidly over time, that the mismatch is going to grow wider and wider, and birds might not be able to capitalize on the food resources that they’ve evolved with in order to maximize breeding success,” Shumar says.


Shumar says that fewer birds could mean more pests, like emerald ash borers that feed on ash trees, or more ticks. That may be a positive development for profit-making pest control companies, but not for farmers. Agriculture, Shumar says, will likely be adversely affected if climate control continues to hurt the bird population.

“We would see things like crop failure,” he says.

Tourism in some areas of the state might also be affected as well. After all, birds attract birders, many with tourism dollars in their pockets, as they drive along I-75 and I-71.