Global Warming in the Great Lakes


I know that global warming is big and bad and will reshape our world – but for me, it really becomes tangible when I can understand how it will affect specific places. As Gary wrote last week, the Great Lakes are one of those places where we work and that inspire a great sense of place. Now, there’s some additional specific information about how global warming will affect the Lakes – and it doesn’t look good.

A conference at Michigan State University last week focused on the effects of global warming in the Great Lakes Region. Basically, as summed up in the Detroit Free Press, the effects include:

  • Lower lake levels;
  • Less ice cover;
  • More algae (that can be toxic and deplete oxygen levels);
  • More waterborne disease from storm-induced sewer overflows.

The Environmental Protection Agency has already issued a draft report predicting more sewer overflows in the Great Lakes region due to global warming, but MSU Professor and American Rivers Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee Member Joan Rose tied it together, explaining that strong storms increase the risk for spreading disease:

Increasing storms, combined with higher temperatures that make it easier for pathogens to survive, could bring more disease outbreaks in the future… Governments need to invest in better sewage treatment and plan for the future by monitoring what happens to public health now.

It’s clear from this conference that having enough clean and water is going to be the challenge for us going forward – in the Great Lakes and elsewhere. As I’ve written before – and in line with Dr Rose’s recommendations – investing in effective water infrastructure and galvanizing support for such investment through sewage right to know are two solutions key to making this happen.