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Survey Of Dayton Residents Finds Climate Change Concerns

The Great Miami River is connected to the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer, where Dayton gets its water.
Lewis Wallace

Scientists around the country are ringing alarm bells about climate change, and some of the effects are already hitting the Dayton area. A local study of attitudes on climate change finds many people are concerned, but it also finds people are not sure what to do about climate change nor confident that it will be addressed.

In the coming decades, Dayton is likely to see an increase in heat waves and extra hot days, air quality and health problems associated with heat, changes in precipitation including an increase in flooding, and increasing numbers of extreme weather events such as wind storms and tornadoes, according to a general assessment of the potential impacts of climate change in Dayton by the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities (GLAA-C). Just last week, the National Climate Assessment spearheaded by the federal government found immediate and potentially dire consequences for failing to curb climate change will likely touch every region of the country, changing everything from shipping patterns to the farming season.

A new study, Climate Change in the Dayton, Ohioan Mind, which is still in draft form, found most respondents believe that people can take action to reduce climate change, but most also think that decisive action is unlikely. Respondents were split on the issue of cost: 44 percent said they’d give money to address climate change, while 37 percent said they were unwilling. A majority think the scientific consensus is that climate change is happening, while 32 percent said “there is disagreement” among scientists, and just 3 percent said most scientists don’t believe in it.

The surveys were gathered from 516 people who were travelers at the Dayton International Airport, members of local priority boards or attendees at a river summit in the city, so the respondents aren’t a representative sample of all Daytonians. Its purpose in part is to inform the city about how to do outreach in the future, particularly as the costs of climate change become real.

Michele Simmons, Dayton’s environmental manager for water, says the city will have to work to manage flooding and water quality, among other things; all this comes as Dayton is trying to use the river more as an economic driver.

“This will be a sustainable resource, this will be something that can bring businesses and jobs back to the Dayton region, it will be something that can bring recreational tourism to our region so that we can both appreciate and use our rivers,” Simmons said.

The Dayton study, due to be finalized this week, was a collaboration between the city of Dayton, Wright State University and the Graham Environmental Institute at the University of Michigan; Tamera Schneider of Wright State's Department of Psychology joined Simmons as a principal investigator.

Lewis Wallace is WYSO's economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.