Low water levels on the Great Lakes: a serious environmental problem.

This summer we spent two weeks on Georgian Bay, a truly beautiful, nearly-landlocked bay that empties into Lake Huron.  We rented a beach cottage, which, like many other properties there, had been “in the family” for many years.  The owners were justifiability concerned that dropping water levels would affect their enjoyment of this special property in many ways.

Shortly afterwards we accompanied a staff naturalist for a nature walk on Beausoleil Island National Park. Our guide commented on the impact of lower water levels on the natural environment of the Park.  In this connection he referred to certain factors associated with climate change: reduced winter ice coverage, hotter summers and a rise in water temperature.

By coincidence, at the same time as our visit to Beausoleil Island, The Great Lakes International Joint Commission, a joint US-Canadian body established by the Boundary Waters Treaty between US and Canada, released its final report on lower water levels in the Great Lakes.

This Report frequently referred to the difficulty of deciding if low water conditions reflected natural variability, or whether they were had been brought about by climate change.  The report stated:

“The major factors affecting the water supply to the lakes – precipitation, evaporation and runoff – vary naturally over time and cannot be controlled.  However, in addition to natural climate variability, there now is the risk that climate change – a longer term change in climate patterns attributed directly or indirectly to human activities that have altered the composition of the global atmosphere – is introducing a high level of uncertainty to predicting likely future water levels across the basin.”

Once again we have the issue so dear to climate change denialists and sceptics: are these factors “natural climate variability”, or are they the result of “global warming” caused by greenhouse gases?

In acknowledging that the impact of climate change could not be predicted, the Commission steered away from concrete recommendations to restore lake levels.  The Commission could only conclude that further study was needed.  Meanwhile the serious environmental degradation caused by low water levels will not be addressed.

Cottage owners are left to their own devices. Many among them blame dredging that occurred some decades ago. They have proposed engineering measures solution to reduce the outflow of water from Lake Huron that resulted from this dredging. They are pressing Governments to adopt these measures.

Here is an example why research into the effects of climate change is vital! But is it likely that the Commission’s recommendation will change the attitude of a Government that will not support research that might demonstrate the bankruptcy of its policies on climate change?!


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