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Climate change linked to $19.3 billion in potential harm to Great Lakes economy

CBC reports, “Low water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River could result in severe economic fallout for the region, totalling more than $19.3 billion by 2050, according to a new report. …The report, released Thursday by the Mowat Centre and Council of the Great Lakes Region, said water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin ‘fell dramatically’ in 1997-98 and haven’t recovered.”

The article notes, “The economic footprint of the Great Lakes Region is $5.25 trillion, or around 28 per cent of combined Canadian and U.S. economic activity. The report said lower water levels in the Great Lakes — which hold about 20 per cent of the world’s surface freshwater supply — would impact several industries, including: Recreational boating and fishing: $12.86 billion; Commercial shipping and harbours: $1.92 billion; Hydroelectric generation: $2.93 billion; Property values near the shores: $976 million.”

“[Mark Fisher, who heads the Council of the Great Lakes Region, says] that the study’s projections are ‘conservative’, given that researchers did not look at indirect effects or how low water levels could impact human health, commercial fishing or the manufacturing sector.”

The article highlights, “Climate change is a closely related issue and requires input on local, provincial and federal levels, Fisher said, adding that U.S.-Canada collaboration will be essential to safeguard the future of the Great Lakes. …’Climate change is real, it’s happening today, the potential economic impact of climate change particularly on water levels is significant’, he said. ‘We need to pay attention because at the end of the day, while the Great Lakes are vast, they are a finite resource.’ …The next step is a cost-benefit analysis of adaptation measures and mitigation strategies in responding to climate-change induced low water levels, Fisher said.”

The International Joint Commission agrees. In an article about their March 2012 study, the Globe and Mail reported, “The largest part of the drop in the lakes’ water levels is attributed to climate change: shorter winters and dry, hot summers meant more water evaporating from the lakes than was going back in through precipitation.”

The 120-page report by the Mowat Centre and Council of the Great Lakes Region can be read here.

In May 2013, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow highlighted the impact of climate change on the Great Lakes during a 7-city tour with stops in Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and New York. More on that tour and links between climate change and dropping Great Lakes water levels here.

This coming September, the Council of Canadians will be marching in New York City to demand that world leaders take real action to stop climate catastrophe, including a stop to the harm climate change is doing to the Great Lakes. You can read more about the September 20-21 People’s Climate March here.

Further reading
Liquid Pipeline: Extreme energy’s threat to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River by Maude Barlow (released March 2014)
Our Great Lakes Commons: A People’s Plan to Protect the Great Lakes Forever by Maude Barlow (released March 2011)