City of Chicago declares climate crisis after storms cause millions of dollars in damage to Lake Michigan shoreline

A wave of storms in January damaged the city's already disappearing beaches.

Officials in Chicago have declared a climate crisis after a round of severe storms last month caused millions of dollars in damage to the city's already disappearing shoreline on Lake Michigan.

In addition to the storms, record-high water levels in Lake Michigan during January also caused erosion on the lakefront, ABC Chicago station WLS reported.

After Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a local disaster for the portions of the destroyed beaches last week, the City Council environmental committee passed a resolution Monday to declare a climate crisis to seek resources to repair the damage, according to WLS.

The resolution does not require the city to take any action but pledges that the council will work with Lightfoot to develop a budget to promote "urgent climate action," the Chicago Tribune reported.

The City Council also called on Lightfoot to re-establish a municipal Department of the Environment, which was eliminated by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he took office in 2011 to cut costs.

"I think that we need a dedicated aspect of our city bureaucracy that's focused exclusively on that," Alderman Matt Martin, who represents the city's 47th Ward, said on Monday.

In November, WLS published dramatic photos showing how much of the beach has disappeared since 2013, when Lake Michigan was at an all-time low.

The mayor's office is in the process of hiring a chief sustainability officer "who will ensure a dedicated focus on current climate and environmental issues," according to a statement from the mayor.

"Mayor Lightfoot is committed to a proactive environmental agenda that puts equity at its center and prepares Chicago to protect all of its communities, especially those most vulnerable, from pollution and other threats to our shared environment," the statement read.

During a governor's meeting with President Donald Trump on Monday, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker raised concerns about the state's need for federal help to prevent flooding, prompting Trump's office to ensure it was committed to working on providing aid.

Once the funds come through, it will be imperative for city officials to ensure that they are applied equitably throughout the city, including the Southside and south lakefront neighborhoods, Alderman Pat Dowell, who represents the 3rd Ward, said on Monday.