The Midwest already is seeing effects of climate change, and local governments should plan to address damage to bridges and other infrastructure, the Midwest Economic Policy Institute reports.

Minnesota and Michigan have adopted plans to address the changes -- leading the region -- and the state transportation departments of Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota have assessed vulnerabilities, the St. Paul-based nonprofit said. Iowa was not singled out for praise for planning, though the Iowa Flood Center and many others have been involved in that type of work.

The think tank suggested that states and cities limit or ban treatment plants and other facilities in areas that have already flooded. That debate renews every time Iowa has major flood damage, and some cities, including Cedar Falls, have moved to limit development in that way, at least to some extent. 

“Climate change has already caused, and will continue to cause for many years to come, unimaginable impacts on the nation’s population, environments, and economy," the report notes. "No one policy or action alone will halt the harmful effects and -- while the local, state, and federal governments have made great strides in recent decades -- there is much more that can and should be done. In particular, action must be taken to mitigate against future impacts to transportation and electricity systems, as they serve as two of the most important infrastructure systems to both the nation’s residents and economy.

“The Midwest is expected to feel the effects of climate change in the form of higher temperatures, prolonged summers, increased heavy rain events, and more frequent freeze-thaw cycles. This will lead to damage, deterioration, and added stress to existing transportation and electricity facilities. Interruptions of services during extreme weather events will also contribute to widespread impacts to freight movements and electricity production, both of which will adversely impact the economy.” 

The study suggests states could face financial challenges when bridges and other facilities already face a $2 trillion shortfall for maintenance through 2025, not including the damage that severe weather fueled by climate change could add.

Read our story (Insider content) detailing Iowa State University researcher Gene Takle’s take on how climate change will affect Iowa.