Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 3, 2013

Forum: Climate change is already taking a toll

By Ann Baughman
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Summertime in northern Michigan is glorious. Clean water and fresh air make swimming, fishing, boating and hiking the basis of many happy memories. We have an obligation to future generations to ensure that they, too, can experience the wonders of a northern Michigan summer. Unfortunately, climate change is already taking a toll on the place we love.

Right now we are experiencing extremely low Great Lakes water levels. Another impact of climate change is increases in flashy type rains as opposed to those slow steady rains we remember from our childhood. For example, the intense storm that hit Illinois this spring had the highest levels of flooding ever recorded there. Last year, Duluth, Minnesota had a 10-inch rainfall in less than two days. The flooding there collapsed roads and caused damage costing millions to repair. These are just a few of the effects we are experiencing right now that threaten the health of our waters and communities.

President Obama’s plan to cut carbon pollution is a good and positive step to address this problem. Power plants release as much carbon pollution as they want. There are limits for arsenic, mercury and lead, now it is time to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and limit carbon pollution too.

However, these needed cuts to carbon pollution will take years to take effect in our atmosphere. That’s why Freshwater Future is working to help communities around the Great Lakes adapt to current impacts of climate change. Through our Climate Program we are training citizens and providing crucial funds to help communities be more resilient to the impacts of climate change in the Great Lakes region. For example, neighborhoods in Detroit are installing rain gardens to collect and treat stormwater, reducing flows to the city’s overburdened wastewater treatment plant and pollution to the Detroit River.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s support for using natural gas as a transition towards renewable energy is too big of a risk. Drilling for shale gas leaks methane, increasing climate change, not to mention the millions of gallons of water it takes to drill a well. Once used to drill, the water is not suitable in our rivers, lakes, streams and homes. What is returned above ground is polluted while much of it is lost to us deep underground in the fractured shale formations. Do we really want to lose billions of gallons water that we rely on for drinking water, agriculture, and tourism?

It’s common sense. If we want our children and grandchildren to experience the waters and beauty of Michigan like we have, we must reduce carbon pollution, ensure natural gas drilling does not destroy billions of gallons of our water, and begin to address the impacts of our changing climate now.

About the author: Ann Baughman is an Associate Director for Freshwater Future of Petoskey, a nonprofit working to ensure the healthy future of the waters in the Great Lakes. She manages Freshwater Future’s Climate Program. On the Web at: www.freshwaterfuture.org

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.