President Obama's announcement Tuesday of a plan to fight climate change is welcome news for the Great Lakes.
Climate change is already affecting the lakes, and the trend is expected to continue. From 1973 – 2010 Lake Michigan warmed by 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit, winter air temperatures over the lake warmed by 2.7 degrees, and ice cover was reduced by 77 percent.
Warmer lake and air temperatures are expected to cause a host of problems, including:
- More frequent, more intense storms that damage homes, businesses, shorelines and valuable fishery and wildlife habitats
- More frequent flooding, including sewer overflows that send untreated sewage pouring into the lakes
- Harmful algae overgrowth, especially toxic blue-green algae, during more months of the year
- Extreme and unpredictable lake level changes
- The spread of invasive species that previously couldn’t have survived in the Great Lakes
The Alliance is helping coastal communities adapt to some of these coming changes. We’re working with partners on green infrastructure projects to slow and absorb stormwater runoff during heavy rains. We’re advocating for new sewage infrastructure that will reduce flooding and sewage overflows. Our Adopt-a-Beach™ teams are on call to help local authorities clean up after major storms and collect data that can help them assess storm damage.
Adapting to the effects of climate change helps protect the Great Lakes, but it won't keep a global problem from getting worse. The other critical step is reducing emissions that contribute to a changing climate.
So thank you, President Obama, for making both adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change a priority for the nation and the Great Lakes. We commit to amplifying our work in this corner of the world to protect the Great Lakes for generations to come.
President & CEO