Experts discuss impact global warming will have on Michigan

By gabriella patti | 2/26/14 6:21pm

Global warming is­ a term that many have become familiar with over the past few years. It is dropped in the news, in political debates and in discussions with peers. It evokes a variety of emotions from skepticism to anger and passion.

However, many scientists around the world agree that climate change and environmental stresses are real problems with frightening implications.

“Climate change is both a result of human activities and natural factors,” said Elena Lioubimtseva, director of the Environmental Studies program at Grand Valley State University. “We are changing the climate at a much faster pace than it would be for natural reasons.”

GVSU’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council showed the National Geographic documentary, “Chasing Ice,” on Tuesday. The film was created by environmental photographer James Balog, who documented the melting of glaciers around the world.

“The impact (of climate change) has seemingly increased,” said Mel Northup, a biology professor at GVSU. “Between about 1940 and about 1975 there was very little to no change in the average air temperatures around the world. Then by the 1980s and 1990s we were seeing warmer temperatures.”

This trend has continued into the twenty-first century.

“We have growing concentrations of carbon dioxide and for the first time this year they reached 400 particles per million,” Lioubimtseva said. “There is a high growth of greenhouse gases. The speed of the growth is increasing and this is something that is very troubling.”

The film was followed by a panel with Kim Walton, the program director at the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, and Kevin Strychar, who conducts ecological research at the Annis Water Resources Institute.

They focused on the ongoing debate about climate change and why people should care. Both agreed that a problem exists and the frequency of these changes need to be accounted for.

“You can look at the last several hundred years and see that all in all during these years the climate is relatively steady,” Strychar said. “Yes, it goes up, and yes it goes down, however the concern is that since industrialization we have seen gases in the atmosphere skyrocket.”

The melting of the glaciers and ice caps will affect the earth in several ways, said Lioubimtseva.

“There is more fresh water going into ocean. The ice is melting and because of this the sea levels will rise, ocean currents are slowing down, climates will change,” she said.

In the future, Lioubimtseva said there could be an increase in flooding, extreme weather, extinction rates of animals and mass migrations of all living things.

Michigan would not be exempt from these changes, Walton added, saying the state could experience significant changes due to the Great Lakes.

“You might see evaporation and drops (in water levels) in the Great Lakes,” Walton said. “You might see more lake effect snow too.”

Michigan favorites such as the Tulip Festival and cherry farms are affected by climate changes as well.

“Every year the Tulip Festival needs to be moved up a week due to weather changes,” Strychar said.

Due to the changes already occurring, the panelists agreed that action to change human behaviors should be taken.

“You can have an impact,” Strychar said. “A little bit of change multiplied equals massive change.”

How to create a safer/cleaner environment:

? Talk to your state legislators in person

? Use renewable energy sources

? Walk more, drive less

? Turn off your computer at night

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