Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region
Climate Change in the Great Lakes:
A Conference at Michigan State University
April 9-10, 2008
- Lest We Be Cavalier: The Challenge of Adapting Effectively to Climate Change
- Physical and Ecological Responses of the Great Lakes to Climate Change
- Climate Change, Utilities and Economic Regulation: Understanding Markets, Efficiency, Incentives, and Policy Impacts
- Public Values, Beliefs and Attitudes
- Activism and Action at the State and Local Level: Recommendations and Reflections
- Business Responses to Climate Change
- Open Space for (Public Discussion of) "No Regrets" Policies and Actions
- Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change in Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin
- Climate and Water: Forecasting Waterborne Pathogen Risks
- The Context for Sustainable Design in the Great Lakes Region
- Economic and Policy Implications for the Great Lakes Region
- Bioeconomy and Climate Change
Lest We Be Cavalier: The Challenge of Adapting Effectively to Climate Change
Plenary speaker: Dr. Joel Scheraga, National Program Director for the Global Change Research Program in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development
Any smart policy portfolio must contain actions both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to a changing climate. The mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to slow the rate of climate change. Adaptation is essential because the climate will continue to change regardless of what we do to mitigate; these changes in climate pose risks to human health, the environment, and social well being. But we cannot be cavalier about the ease with which we can adapt effectively, even in a wealthy and technologically advanced country like the United States. Events like the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the deaths of 30,000 people in the European heat wave of 2003, and the climate-induced damages being incurred by tribal communities in Alaska, suggest that significant barriers exist to effective adaptation. Adaptive responses can also have unanticipated adverse consequences (so-called “maladaptation”). An adaptation strategy that may protect one particular system may, inadvertently, increase risks to other systems. For example, if the protection of coastal property from sea level rise were the only concern, sea walls could be built. But the rise in sea level also threatens wetlands, and the building of sea walls prevents new wetlands from forming. In some cases, it may be impossible to avoid all risks. Society may have to choose between alternative outcomes. The key is to insure that the decisions that are made about investments in adaptation are informed ones. Finally, there may be limits to adaptation, i.e., points beyond which it is impossible to adapt. Thresholds and irreversibilities may exist beyond which it is not possible for human and ecological systems to adapt. For example, increases in ocean temperatures associated with climate change, which will increase the number of coral bleaching episodes. Eventually, a threshold may be reached and the ability of coral reefs to recover from bleaching events exceeded, resulting in the elimination of sensitive species. A better understanding of such limits to adaptation is necessary to ensure (1) that investments in adaptive responses are made soon enough to avoid, if possible, thresholds and irreversibilities, and (2) investments aren't made in adaptive responses that have no chance of succeeding. If we are to succeed in our goal of protecting public health and the environment, then we must make significant investments to improve our understanding of the essential elements of effective adaptive responses, as well investments to implement the adaptive management practices themselves.
Physical and Ecological Responses of the Great Lakes to Climate Change
Session organizers: Dr. Nathaniel Ostrom, Department of Zoology, Michigan State University and Dr. Steve Colman, Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota-Duluth
This session will present the current physical and ecological changes occurring in the Great Lakes and other large lake environments in response to climate change. These changes include reductions in ice cover, warming of surface waters, changes in microbial and phytoplankton communities and changes in food web structure. The workshop will also set an agenda for future research on the Great Lakes with an emphasis on the need for large scale monitoring networks.
This topic will cover two breakout sessions.
Dr. Nathaniel Ostrom. The Great Lakes Ecosystem: A Legacy of Change, a Future of Uncertainty
Dr. Steve Colman and Dr. Jay Austin. Changes in Water Temperature and Related Properties of Lake Superior in the Last Few Decades to Century
Dr. Thomas C. Johnson. Paleoclimate Perspectives on Future Climate Change in the Great Lakes Basin
Dr. J. Val Klump and Dr. James T. Waples. Changing Climatology, Ecology and Hydrology
Dr. Steven Wilhelm. Climate Change and Food Webs in The Great Lakes
Dr. R.E. Hecky and Dr. Piet Verburg. Climate Warming Implications for Fisheries and Fish Communities of the African Great Lakes
Dr. Stuart A. Ludsin. Complexities of Forecasting Climate Change Effects on Great Lakes Fisheries
Climate Change, Utilities and Economic Regulation: Understanding Markets, Efficiency, Incentives, and Policy Impacts
Organizers: Dr. Janice A. Beecher and Dr. Kenneth Rose, Institute of Public Utilities, Michigan State University
A commonly held view is that utilities are unresponsive to environmental concerns or even biased against environmental perspectives. The methods and processes of regulation are often criticized for providing too little incentive for utilities to invest in nontraditional resources for meeting demands (e.g., energy efficiency and renewable energy). Views about utilities and their regulation sometimes reflect misconceptions about (a) utility economics and economic incentives, (b) the role of regulation in protecting customers and finding solutions that promote the public interest, and (c) the economic cost and distributional impacts of alternative energy policies. This workshop will provide insights into, and opportunities for discussion of, these issues.
Public Values, Beliefs and Attitudes
Organizer: Dr. Thomas Dietz, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Michigan State University
Understanding how individuals view climate change, and what motivates their action, is central to achieving solutions. This session describes how Michigan citizens view climate change, what policy solutions they prefer, and what factors influence their beliefs and actions. It provides insights for policymakers and others seeking citizen input and involvement in the climate change issue.
Tom Dietz, Michigan State University. Support for Climate Change Policy: Social Psychological and Social Structural Influences.
Stan Kaplowitz, Michigan State University. He will present results of an experiment on the effects of communications related to personally reducing CO2 emissions and to policies that would achieve this.
Activism and Action at the State and Local Level
Those seeking to explain public apathy on climate change often attribute it to people's sense of their inability to make a difference, on a huge and complex issue. This session brings together three long-time activists to discuss their journey toward making a difference on climate change. Tom Karas helped Traverse City become a signatory to the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement and create a countywide carbon emission inventory, and is currently working against new coal plants in Michigan. Brandon Knight co-founded the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition. Peter Sinclair was trained by Al Gore as a grassroots Climate Presenter and has been presenting the latest mainstream science on climate to educational, civic, and church groups around Michigan for the last year. They will discuss their personal paths to action, how they motivate others, and what works and doesn't in achieving change.
Understanding Business Action on Climate Change
Organizer: Dr. Maya Fischhoff, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Michigan State University
Businesses are central players in addressing climate change. Understanding the role of business, however, can be challenging. They impact climate in diverse ways (from manufacturing to lobbying), their motivations are often obscure to outsiders, and great variation exists within the business community.
This session uses diverse lenses to illuminate questions around businesses' impacts on climate change. Presenters with varied backgrounds will describe the businesses they know best: what action they are taking on climate change and why. A discussion - with audience participation - will follow to isolate common themes.
David Gard, Energy Program Director at the Michigan Environmental Council. He will discuss how the policy framework impacts business choices around climate change.
Maya Fischhoff, Environmental Science and Policy Program (ESPP), Michigan State University. She will describe how middle managers at energy companies think about and work on environmental issues, including climate change.
Rachael Shwom, Department of Sociology and ESPP, Michigan State University. Using the example of appliance manufacturers, she will describe how businesses are affected by the other organizations they interact with (other businesses, environmental groups, and government agencies).
Rich Grogan, Department of Communications and ESPP, Michigan State University. He will discuss service station owners' willingness to provide alternative fuels.
Jerry Akers, Energy Manager, Herman Miller. He will describe how and why Herman Miller has addressed the climate change issue.
Open Space for (Public Discussion of) "No Regrets" Policies and Actions
Organizer: Tom Stanton, Michigan Renewable Energy Program, Public Service Commission and David Bidwell, Sociology and ESPP, Michigan State University
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advocates "no regrets" mitigation and adaptation approaches; these are ways to address climate change at no or very low cost, or with high benefit-cost ratios. The 4th IPCC report explains: "[Some] mitigation actions can result in near-term co-benefits (e.g. improved health due to reduced air pollution) that may offset a substantial fraction of mitigation costs. ... In several sectors, climate response options can be implemented to realize synergies and avoid conflicts with other dimensions of sustainable development." As Nordhaus and Shellenberger (2007, pp. 257-258) anticipate, a helpful public policy response to global climate change could be capable of establishing a new, inspirational “social contract” based on a “clean energy investment platform” that could enable “fulfillment, self-creation, and a new ecological politics.” This session seeks to identify and actually begin the process of initiating implementation of "no regrets" options for the Great Lakes Region: mitigation and adaptation opportunities with various combinations of net negative costs; near-term co-benefits, especially in terms of new economic development and employment creation opportunities; and synergies with other dimensions of sustainable development. Workshop leaders will use an "Open Space" meeting approach (http://www.openspaceworld.org/), in which participants self-organize. Participants will set their own agenda, and then form small groups to begin work on the topics they choose. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO LEAD DISCUSSION OF A SPECIFIC "NO REGRETS" TOPIC, please contact Tom Stanton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change in Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin
Session organizers: Dr. Patrick J. Doran, Director of Science, The Nature Conservancy in Michigan; Dr. Kimberly R. Hall, Departments of Fisheries and Wildlife and Forestry, Michigan State University
Climate change threatens ecosystems, human well-being, and the mission of State and Federal agencies as well as that of non-profit conservation organizations such as The Nature Conservancy. Global warming particularly threatens ecosystems across the Great Lakes of North America because the lakes and their extensive network of rivers and streams have fostered unique natural communities sensitive to drought and heat stress. Some of these species and communities are restricted to nearshore areas of the Great Lakes, and other areas, where the relatively cool summer and warm winter temperatures generated by the Great Lakes provide refugia and may in the future. This portion of the upper Midwest has both continental and maritime-like climates and is therefore a particularly valuable area to assess consequences of future climate change. Challenges—complexity confounded by massive uncertainties in climate change predictions and our understanding of how changes will cascade through ecosystems.
The objective of this symposium is to promote the incorporation of climate change impacts into conservation research, planning and action. Our speakers will introduce natural resource management challenges, describe tools and resources designed to help integrate climate change into conservation decisions, and present a set of case studies designed to influence conservation strategies in forested and aquatic systems. Finally, we will facilitate a discussion, entitled “Research & Action” with the goal of developing an agenda for climate change research and action in Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin.
Dr. Patrick Doran, The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. Climate Change: Challenges to Biodiversity Conservation
Dr. Kimberly R. Hall, Michigan State University. Tools for Incorporating Climate Change into Conservation Decisions.
Dr. Patrick Doran. The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. Case study: Modeling Northern Minnesota Forests under Climate Change: Management, Natural Disturbance and Species Migration
Dr. Paul J. Steen, Dr. Michael J. Wiley, and Dr. Jeffrey S. Schaeffer, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center. Case study: Predicting Future Changes in Muskegon River Watershed Game Fish under Land-Use Alteration and Climate Change Scenarios.
Climate and Water: Forecasting Waterborne Pathogen Risks
Organizer: Dr. Joan B. Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research, Michigan State University
Both water quantity and quality changes are predicted with climate change. Quantity may be exhibited by lowering levels and by changes in the intensity of the precipitation, with a greater chance for flooding and extreme weather. Quality changes are more difficult to characterize. With warmer temperatures, for example more toxic algal blooms with greater duration have been suggested but it is precipitation which has been the most significant factor documented and tied to deterioration of the water environment and to public health risks.
Epidemic and endemic waterborne disease and pathogen risks associated with drinking water and recreational water remain of significant concern in the Great Lakes Basin, which is home to 100s of recreational beaches and supplies drinking water to 40 million Americans and Canadians annually. Historically, communities in states and provinces around the Great Lakes experienced the worst outbreaks of typhoid and dysentery ever recorded in the US (1920-1929). In 1993 the largest waterborne outbreak in the US took place in Milwaukee and in 2000 the small town of Walkerton experienced a waterborne catastrophe. The most recent waterborne outbreak occurred in South Bass Island, situated in Lake Erie within the community of Put-In-Bay.
Wastewater and manure disposal methods and pathogen transport by significant rainfall and lake events caused massive contamination leading to these community wide waterborne outbreaks. Studies of 50 years of data on community outbreaks in the US confirms the role that climate has played in the spread of disease. Both surface waters and ground waters are at risk with 1 month and 2 month lags, respectively between the extreme precipitation and the outbreaks. Studies in South Florida have shown a clear relationship between El Niño and deterioration of water quality. In the Great Lakes the climate factors are more complex and include precipitation, temperature and wind, all which drives and transports the fecal pollution.
Global changes have not only contributed to emerging and reemerging infectious diseases but have contributed to the increased risk of waterborne disease due to increases in populations, wastewater loading to the water environment, non-point source discharges (eg. manure) and lack of or poor infrastructure. This has been exacerbated by climate variations. Via development of land-use, transport modeling driven by climate inputs, the potential risk can be estimated. However, without investment in better community development in the urban and rural areas and improved infrastructure, adaptation to climate extremes will not be possible and increased risk of waterborne disease is predicted.
The Context for Sustainable Design in the Great Lakes Region
Speaker: Glen S. LeRoy, College of Architecture and Design, Lawrence Technological University
Research has indicated that greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming are caused by three factors: approximately one-fourth transportation; one-fourth industry, and one-half housing. This approach tends to look at these three issues in isolation. The reality, however, is that most issues are intertwined within an increasingly complex urban and suburban development context. The solutions involve the way we live, the way we work, and the way we travel---as well as the social, economic and political contexts of economic and development decisions. Failure to address the full context of sustainable development will only yield partial success in creating a more sustainable world.
The problems and issues associated with climate change and sustainability are also regional in nature. Each region---even within the context of the global phenomenon of climate change---must adopt its own unique strategies. This is because each region has its own unique assets, liabilities, and attitudes. The Great Lakes region is certainly no exception, and its assets may be better positioned than many other areas in the United States to confront necessary change.
A goal of this presentation will be to allow participants to realize that successful sustainable design is necessary at all scales of development---from the individual house to the entire region. Through a comprehensive approach to sustainable design and thoughtful economic development, the Great Lakes region can emerge as well-positioned as possible to face the prospect of global climate change, as well as demonstrating national and international leadership on this important issue.
Economic and Policy Implications for the Great Lakes Region
Organizer: Dr. Robert Richardson, Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, Michigan State University
Michigan's response to climate change is influenced by policy and economic dynamics at the state, national, and international levels. This session will focus on the economic challenges and opportunities for the Great Lakes region related to the impacts of global climate change. Presenters in this session will describe the implications of global agreements on climate change for Michigan: how the post-Kyoto agreement known as the "Bali Roadmap" will influence opportunities for sustainable industry and greenhouse gas reduction and how Michigan can take advantage of such business opportunities. They will also describe a model state-level incentive program to encourage the conservation of energy and the development of alternative sources, with a particular focus on wind energy.
James Jansen and Skylar VanSteenis, Environmental Economics, Michigan State University. Implications of Global Agreements on Climate Change for Michigan
Emily Petz and Jeff Pung, Environmental Economics, Michigan State University. Conserving Energy and Developing Alternative Sources: An Incentive Program
Brandon Hofmeister, Deputy Legal Counsel, Office the Governor
Bioeconomy and Climate Change
Speaker: Dr. Steven Pueppke, Director, Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station
In recent years, climate change and the bioeconomy have been major themes in discussions of Michigan's future. The bioeconomy, defined as biofuels and biomaterials, or more broadly as Michigan's environmental resources, is seen as playing a central role in Michigan's economic future. This session examines the relationship between these two significant trends. How will they affect each other? And, how can we use similar approaches in thinking about them and their importance for Michigan?