Our focus this past month has been on a climate change problem right on the doorsteps of Ontario residents: the Great Lakes water levels. We commented on a Report released in August by the International Joint Commission, a Canada-US body responsible for overseeing the environmental health and development of the Great Lakes. We noted: “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 has been studying the effect of climate change for many years. It released a study by experts in 2003 entitled “Climate Change and Water Quality in the Great Lakes Region”. Lakes levels were a central concern of this study.
Judging by the contents of its August 2012 report, Commission does not seem to have progressed in the last nine years in linking lake levels and climate change. In its cover story on the Commission report, The Globe and Mail clearly recognized this linkage:
“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.”
One cannot help having a degree of sympathy for the Commission. The issue of climate change trends and their impact on a regional area is not an easy topic, and the current Federal government is not disposed to bankroll the necessary research on climate change. Since there are no research funds for such a “theoretical” issue, what can the Commission do but resort to generalities? And postpone concrete recommendations to another day?
Lana Pollack chairs the U.S. section of the Commission said her group can make recommendations to Canadian and U.S. governments, but it’s up to the public to call on officials to do a better job protecting the lakes.
“The lakes have the good fortune to be located between two great democracies, but pressure for doing anything well has to rise up from the public,” she said after the agreement was signed. “At the end of the day, the only thing any of us have is public outrage if the Great Lakes aren’t being protected.”
It struck us that her comments are equally applicable to climate change in North America.