The Great Lakes Climate Change

20Nov10 format for printing

Review of Lecture on Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region

Main Messages:

There are 4 overarching findings or key messages of this lecture, following the full report on Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region (click here for the report Great Lakes climate. ):

1. The report authors concur with the consensus among the vast majority of climate scientists that climate change is underway and that – at least over the past 50 years - human activities have had a discernible impact on the global atmosphere and climate. Activities such as driving cars and producing electricity from fossil-fuel-powered power plants produce heat-trapping gas emissions that cause climate change.

2. Climate change magnifies existing health and environmental problems, and will not occur in a vacuum.

3. Climate change has already changed and will continue to change the fundamental character of the Great Lakes region.

4. The good news is that the worst of these impacts are not inevitable. As much as humans are adding to the problem, we can also be part of the solution. Many common sense solutions are available now. While additional R&D is necessary to create the solutions that will lead us to a fossil-fuel-free society and economy, there are many things we can do already to get started. Everyone of us, from individuals to industry to governments, can and must be part of the solution.

Main Concepts:

  • Although climate change has been occurring throughout the history of Earth, the current rate of change is (and will be) faster than humans have probably ever experienced.
  • The scientific community is now certain that the climate is changing, and it is highly likely that humans are causing the change.  The uncertainty lies in determining the exact amount that the climate will change.
  • Climate change is already impacting the character of the Great Lakes region.  Some examples of changes include:
    • increasing temperatures
    • shorter winters, earlier springs
    • more extreme rainfall events
    • shorter ice cover on lakes
  • Climate change will not occur in a vacuum.  The changing climate and resulting environmental changes will interact with existing health and environmental concerns, and in many instances make them worse.  When considering future impacts of climate change, it is important to consider these interactions with other changes such as land-use alterations, increasing pollution, and so on.  (Be prepared to give a specific “example”)
  • There is much “at risk” in the face of climate change.  For example, there will likely be large changes to the economy of certain sectors such as recreation (less snow in winter will reduce winter sports), shipping (decreasing water levels), hunting and fishing (declining populations of fish and waterfowl, increased invasive species, changes in species distributions northward), and human health (greater heat-related deaths, increased vector-borne disease transmission). (Be prepared to give a specific “example”)
  • Solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change are available now.  Such solutions include:

    1. Reduce the risk of climate change by reducing emissions.
    2. Minimize the pressure on the environment, thus reducing the vulnerability to the impact of climate change.
    3. Prepare and plan to manage the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

    Please see the web page that contains the full report (cover on left above) on the Great Lakes climate.  There is a wealth of background information there that can help you to answer any questions you may have, or to simply explore the topic more fully.

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