Saving the Great Lakes from ecological disaster
The consequences of climate change on our largest freshwater system
As summer approaches, students are exchanging their scantrons for swimsuits and pencils for popsicles. For many, summer plans will involve the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes are an epicentre of recreational, economic, and ecological activity. 9.8 million Canadians, about a third of our country’s population, rely on them. Carved thousands of years ago by retreating glaciers, the Great Lakes are a unique ecosystem housing a fifth of the world’s freshwater.
However, concealed by the rolling waves and the glassy surface of the lakes is evidence of environmental damage caused by humans over the last few centuries.
We have not always been kind to the Great Lakes. Heavy human use of the lakes has resulted in habitat loss and fragmentation, the introduction of invasive species, and environmental pollution. The invasion of zebra mussels and clouds of green algae blooming from phosphorus runoff are just two consequences of human activity to make headlines.
More than 3,500 species of plants and animals call the Great Lakes home, and for some, this is the only place where they can exist. Faced with the growing consequences of climate change, the Great Lakes system is coming under even more stress and is possibly reaching a tipping point.
The Environmental Law and Policy Center report
In March, the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), an American non-profit advocacy group, released a report detailing the effects of climate change on the Great Lakes.
Although it is widely understood that the consequences of climate change – like rising temperatures and more extreme weather events – will affect everyone, this report also detailed specific consequences for those who live in the Great Lakes region.