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Ecology South
August 2012
Great Lakes climate
A new scientific paper asserts that the Earth is warming even faster than expected. As the United
including the Great Lakes region, endures one of the worst droughts in history, an effective
strategy to address
climate change requires a stronger commitment from Washington and the private sector to
control greenhouse
The study, whose principal author is NASA's James Hansen, blames the 2011 Texas-Oklahoma
drought, the
2010 heat waves in Russia and the Middle East, and the 2003 European heat wave on humaninduced
greenhouse gases. The latter two disasters killed thousands of people. Mr. Hansen and his
conclude that much more of Earth's land surface is covered by extreme summer heat than it was
in 1980.
Click here to read more Blade editorials.
This year's drought has encompassed nearly two-thirds of the continental United States. Many
consider it a likely expression of climate change.
The drought was worsened by the hottest July on record, dating to 1895. A decreased corn yield
this summer is
leading to higher crop, meat, and fuel prices. Parched land affects water supplies; large numbers
of fish are dying
in some coastal areas where saltwater has seeped in.
In Ohio, groundwater that replenishes lakes will become increasingly important if the state
realizes the predicted
rapid growth of its drilling industry because of the use of horizontal fracturing, or fracking, of
shale bedrock to
produce oil and natural gas. Fracking requires tons of fresh water.
The U.S. Global Change Resource Program believes the Midwest also is particularly vulnerable
to the effects of climate
change because of its distance from oceans, which moderate temperatures.
Mr. Hansen, called the "godfather of global warming," is a controversial figure. His 1988
testimony to the U.S. Senate
was the first from an expert witness who claimed that man-made pollution was changing the
planet's climate beyond natural cycles.
He predicted then that the nation's capital would have nine days a year of high temperatures of
95 degrees or more during this
decade if greenhouse gases continued to rise. This year, even before the dog days of August,
Washington had 23 such days.
The connection between atmospheric pollution and land and water resources isn't always
obvious. But Ohio's heavy reliance on
coal-fired power plants for electricity makes it one of the nation's greatest contributors of
greenhouse gases.
Even if Mr. Hansen's report and the 2012 drought fail to persuade skeptics that more must be
done to respond to man-made
climate change, the Great Lakes region still has to become more proactive about committing to a
clean economy.
It won't happen overnight, but it needs to happen.