Great Lakes: Managing our Response
• Climate in the Region
• The Report
• Technical Background
• For Teachers
• Migrating Climates
• Water Resources
• Sense of Place
• Solutions where we Live
• Reducing our Emissions
• Managing our Response
• Ten Personal Solutions
Managing our Response
Prudent steps taken now to protect the Great Lakes land and water resources will pay big dividends in the future. The Great Lakes region’s economic wealth is generated by its vibrant manufacturing, services (including recreation and tourism), agriculture, and forestry sectors. Each of these sectors rely, in some capacity, upon the ecological resources of the region, and each sector will be affected by the impacts of climate change. We must act now to preserve and protect our valuable ecological resources. Great Lakes residents, planners, land managers, and policymakers can become better prepared to deal with the impacts of climate change.
Climate change is a long-term challenge much like education, child rearing, business investments, or Social Security. Reducing our emissions of heat-trapping gases is the most important action businesses, residents, and all levels of government can take to set us on a more sustainable and safer path. The climate benefits of these reductions, however, will not be seen immediately, as heat-trapping gases already emitted in the past will remain in the atmosphere for decades. As a result, some measure of climate change will occur over the 21st century. It is therefore sensible for us to begin developing strategies for how we should adapt our infrastructure and the management of our natural resources to changing conditions as we understand them today.
Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region explores steps that should be taken to best manage our response to climate change. Among the topics that the report explores are:
Air Quality Improvements
It is estimated that 1,900 people die due to air pollution every year in Ontario alone, costing the medical system approximately $1.1 billion (Cdn) annually according to the Ontario Medical Association. Successful efforts to alleviate this burden have been taken by the city of Mississauga in southern Ontario through the implementation of a comprehensive air quality improvement plan. This has resulted in significant utility savings, reductions in energy use and pollution, expanded transit services and bike paths, and reduced air pollution.
Water Resource Management
Additional water conservation efforts should focus on creating reliable supplies for the industrial and business sectors dependent upon high-quality water. Upgrading of sewer and septic systems and containment of nonpoint pollution from roads, farmland, and other sources are key improvements. Supply concerns can be addressed by developing more effective water conservation strategies during summer months and in water-intensive agricultural and industrial operations. Water diversion schemes must have thorough evaluations of their environmental impact, given the potential for significant ecological changes and conflict arising from such projects.
Urban and Land-use Planning
Grand Rapids, Michigan is receiving much attention for its anti-sprawl movement, including a civic campaign that led to comprehensive land-use policy reforms such as preservation of connected open lands and natural areas, establishment of compact business centers served by mass transit, and limits on extending water and sewer services.
Habitat Protection and Restoration
Agriculture and Forestry Practices
Foresters can also adjust to climate change by: shifting species and genetic varieties of trees; improving soil management, spacing, and tree rotation length; focusing on greater saw timber and less pulp production; using a diversity of tree species to enhance species dispersal; and, increasing investment in the prevention and containment of large forest fires and developing improved strategies for small fire management.
Education about Ecology and Global Warming
• New York