Wednesday, January 27, 2010

While Public Opinion May be Unsure About Climate Change, it will still Impact Michigan in a Big Way

A recent poll indicates that public opinion is waning on global warming. A recent survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change shows that there is more uncertainty about global warming than when the survey was given in 2008. They surveyed 1001 people 18 years and older and found that this year only 57 percent of respondents believed that global warming was happening. This is a 14 percent drop in comparison to 2008. The people that do not believe that global warming is occurring increased from 10 percent in 2008 to 20 percent in 2010.

The survey indicates that people are more unsure about the entire issue than two years ago. When respondents were asked whether they believe if most scientists think that global warming is happening, the number actually went down from 47 percent in 2008 to 34 percent in 2010. Following that trend in the same question was the choice that asked if people thought there were a lot of disagreements over whether global warming was happening, 40 percent thought that there was. This was up from 33 percent in 2008.

The series of questions indicate uncertainty on whether global warming is a natural or manmade phenomenon. Most people do feel that if it does happen it would be a threat to them. The general consensus has been that people are less worried about global warming than they were in 2008. In 2010, just 50 percent said they were very worried or somewhat worried. This was down from 63 percent in 2008.

While this issue may be losing steam, it is still important to keep it at the forefront. Most people's focus is on the economy right now, as it should be. But let's not forget that the climate change is an economic issue that will alter our physical world in ways that will change how we make a living.

There are a laundry list of projected threats to Michigan and the Great Lakes region as a result of climate change. The projected increases in temperature will outweigh the increased precipitation from severe storms. This will also result in less winter ice which will mean more evaporation will occur. This means that all of the Great Lakes will have their water levels go down.

This will effect the shipping industry and will likely mean more dredging of shipping canals like the St. Lawrence Seaway. A 2008 study by the University of Maryland, found that a forecasted drop of the St. Lawrence Seaway by 25 percent would cost a $1.5 billion economic loss in foreign trade for the ports of Detroit, Muskegon, and Port Huron. The cost of increased dredging and the ripple effect of lost import and export jobs could lead to an additional loss of 13,000 jobs and $2.6 billion.

While precipitation is expected to increase, the way that we get rain is expected to change. We will have more storms. This will lead to more flooding and a decline in water quality from combined sewer overflows. The University of Maryland study applied damage from past flooding events and found that this could cost Michigan an additional $700 million a year in damages.

The flooding will be especially bad for the Metro Detroit area since the area is plagued by sewer overflows. The Metro Detroit area is too broke to fix the current sewage overflow problems amidst the worst sewage overflow numbers in recent memory.

As warmer temperatures come to Michigan. There will be trend of more animals and forests migrating northward. This will effect the $12 billion that Michigan forests contribute to the Michigan economy each year as well as the tourism industry. Skiing and snowmobiling will be particularly hard hit.

The agriculture industry will have to deal with more drought, higher rainfall, more soil erosion, and the threat of more invasive species from the higher temperatures.

The way we live and do business will be forever altered in the next century. It is important to remember the local consequences of issues like climate change. If climate change continues unabated it will cost Michigan billions of dollars.

Yale Project on Climate Change:

Americans' Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in January 2010

University of Maryland Report:

Economic Impacts of Climate Change

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