An informative report sponsored by the Environmental Policy and Law and Center summarizes the impacts and concerns of climate change on the Great Lakes and surrounding regions. A team of experts on climate change compiled “An Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Lakes.” Part of their conclusions states “Scientific analyses clearly show that climate change has already greatly affected the region and that these impacts will continue and expand as the pace of climate change accelerates. It is critical that we recognize the importance of one of the world’s most abundant freshwater resources and ensure its protection for generations to come.”
For most people, it is easy to go about everyday life without concern about the changing climate. When I ask people how often they talk about climate change and what needs to be done to mitigate the effects and slow the progression, most admit that this is not a common topic of discussion. Many indicate that they almost never think or talk about the causes and effects of our changing climate. For Great Lakes communities, there are a few clear links of climate change to everyday life: drinking water, fishing, and recreation.
Climate change has contributed to lower water quality, which is problematic since the Great Lakes provides drinking water for about 34 million people. More frequent, extreme precipitation events overwhelm water infrastructure and wash pollutants into the lakes. Increasing water temperatures disturb certain species of fish, and enable other species to thrive, which distresses the $7 billion dollar industry. The higher lake levels reduce beach areas, and other climate-related problems, such as increased algal blooms, lead to more beach closures. High lake levels in combination with strong waves change the geography of the beach areas, affecting recreation and ecosystems. The authors of the document suggest we support all efforts to repair and protect these important freshwater bodies since they are clearly affected by climate change; all who depend on them, including numerous other living creatures, are impacted.
In the meantime, we also need to pray for and respond to others around the globe who are suffering more severe consequences of climate change. In Zimbabwe, prolonged drought and a catastrophic hurricane, considered “an unprecedented climate-driven disaster” have led to a hunger crisis. The UN’s Food World Program expects to assist 4 million people affected by disasters. Unprecedented, devastating fires have been burning for 2 months in Australia, and the level of rising heat is described as “apocalyptic.” An estimated 500 million animals have died, many people have perished and communities have been displaced, as the fires continue. If we truly care for one another, we must listen to the experts and join forces on behalf of Our Common Home, on behalf of one another and all of God’s creatures.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.