Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Climate Change is affecting Michigan and Great Lakes even More than Previously Thought


In light of the fire in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, along with raging fires again this summer across the country, and in Europe, as well as today's flooding rains in New York City, and recently in England, Texas, and India, affecting tens of millions of people just within the last month, we need to be confronting the fact that we are already beginning to see the major impacts that global climate change (due to the growing amounts of global warming gasses in our atmosphere) will only continue to make much worse in the years ahead.

Since Rep. Dingell's Town Hall meetings have announced his relatively weak approach to the dramatic policy changes that are going to be needed to prevent the worst impacts of global warming from becoming reality within the next 50 years (including the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps, which would raise ocean levels high enough to put most major coastal cities under water), we need to look at how legislative failure to address the causes of global warming will impact Michigan and the Great Lakes--
A revised report published last year found that Michigan and the entire Great Lakes region may suffer from the effects of a changing climate more than previously thought. A team of leading scientists from Midwest universities and solutions experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently found that extreme heat events are occurring more frequently, heavy precipitation events, both rain and snow, are becoming more common, air quality may deteriorate due to harmful gases released during more frequent forest fires and the number of summer pollution days may be on the rise. These changes will bring challenges to residents in Great Lakes cities as well as in rural areas, highlighting the need for action to forestall many of the most severe impacts.

Report co-authors, Dr. George Kling, University of Michigan, Department of Ecology and Biology, and Dr. Donald Wuebbles, University of Illinois, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, found new evidence of the impacts of climate change on the region.

The report finds that a warming climate will also increase the severity, and potentially the number, of pollution/ozone episodes in the region. Lake-effect snow may increase as a result of warmer lake surface waters and decreased ice cover, burdening many cities with increased cost for snow removal. Increased drought and flood events in the spring and summer may also put a strain on municipal budgets for sewer infrastructure.

"A hotter, drier climate will create ideal conditions for the start and spread of wildfires," commented Kling. "And an increased number of forest fires can exacerbate drought episodes by reducing rainfall as smoke particles absorb solar heat and interfere with the cycle that generates rainfall in the region."

Fortunately, clean energy solutions are readily available to help curb global warming pollution while boosting Michigan's economy. A UCS analysis, Renewing America's Economy, found that a national standard requiring that 10 percent of U.S. electricity come from renewable resources by 2020 would reduce global warming emissions by 5.5 percent. Steve Clemmer of UCS says, "This would benefit Michigan with 2,700 new jobs, $715 million in new capital investment, and $205 million in payments for bioenergy and wind land leases."

The report, Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region can be found here.


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