Climate change is a hot button issue, but even without playing a blame game, there is weight to the data that has been collected. The Earth will warm as it has in the past, but the repercussions will be far reaching. Within North America, the Great Lakes and global warming will interact in a way that could change the region vastly.
Global warming is not the only threat to this particular region. It is already dealing with a number if invasive species overtaking native species and altering the ecosystem. Climate change is another issue that will inform any regional policies. One of the most important roles for the region is as the producer of twenty percent of the entire planet’s fresh water.
The importance of the region cannot be downplayed. Outside of the manufacturing of drinking water, it is also a huge producer of hydroelectric power, is a thoroughfare for shipping routes, as well as being a tourist attraction. A variety of species, both plant and animal, make their home along the shore and within the lakes themselves.
All is not right in the great lakes region, however, as it has been subject to urban development over the past hundred years. This construction and urbanization has led to air and water pollution as well as habitat destruction due to the building up of cities along its shores. All of these issues make something as simple as increased temperatures potentially devastating.
At this point there is still a thin layer of ice that builds up along the lakes at certain times of the year, but with increased temperature the ice will disappear. When the ice leaves, the lakes will evaporate at a higher rate and bring down the water levels.
Water loss has already been occurring and it was found last year the Lake Superior’s levels were at their lowest in seventy seven years. If the lakes decrease by the purported additional meter in the future, shipping routes will be severely disrupted and the water itself will diminish in quality due to the concentration of pollutants. The travel industry such as cruises will also be negatively affected.
Efforts are underway to restore the Great Lakes with billions of dollars needed to update the antique sewage systems as well as cleaning up the polluted sediment that already exists. Building up the wetland environments at the edges of the lakes will create a natural water cleanser and impediment to invasive species.
There are more repercussions from climate change other than decreasing water levels and that includes an increase in the number and ferocity of storms and drought periods. In response to these weather extremes viral transmissions can increase and pollution runoff may be increased. Within the lakes there may be more dead zones, places where there is no oxygen because of algae overgrowth.
What does the future hold? It cannot be known with absolute certainty, but models have provided some statistics. Storms may increase by 25%, but with the temperature increases (ranging between two and four degrees), the water levels can drop up to eight feet!
Making a better tomorrow really does mean being better today. Allowing for proactive measure while being realistic about future effects can mean that humans can restore luster to the Great Lakes region.
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