Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference: 3 things to know about climate change

Climate change is a scientific fact, experts say, despite 30 percent of Americans don't believe in it.

BY: The Saginaw News

KOCHVILLE TOWNSHIP, MI — Climate change is a scientific fact, experts say, despite 30 percent of Americans don't believe in it.

But to some extent, that doesn't matter as long as people are doing something about it, scientists said at the 2014 Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference at Saginaw Valley State University.

The conference on Thursday, June 12, discussed various projects and agreements in the Great Lakes States that aim to restore and protect the rivers, wetlands and lakes in the Midwest.

Todd Ambs, Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition director; Patrick Doran, The Nature Conservancy director; and James Schardt, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes National Office, participated in a panel discussion and question and answer session regarding water quality, climate change and government actions to protect the waters.

Here are three things they said regarding climate change and the Great Lakes:

1. Climate change is the biggest threat to water levels

Environmental experts spend too much time thinking about how to fix water levels with a man-made solution like dredging rivers, Ambs said.

"Climate change is the problem. That's the biggest threat that we've got," he said. "We continue to debate a settled, scientific fact," he said.

The ice cover on the Great Lakes this winter will help show the effects of climate change, he said.

Water temperature is going to be several degrees cooler in the middle of the lakes, and there will be less water loss. That's not happening on a regular basis now, Ambs said.

2. Dealing with climate change is tough

"It's going to be difficult," Ambs said.

Climate change models show the upper Midwest will have more large, episodic precipitation events such as major snowfalls and rainfalls, he said.

"It just happens a lot more frequently, and that causes significant challenges," he said. "If you have 7 inches of rain in 4 hours, you cannot build a sewage treatment system that can handle the overloads."

With climate change, Doran said, business owners and cottage owners are going to have to accept the fact that water levels change year to year.

"Things change. We have to somewhat be able to adapt to it," he said.

3. Focus on solutions, not arguments

Although 98 percent of scientists agree humans are the cause of climate change, about 30 percent of Americans don't believe it, according to Yale University.

Scientists aren't always the best at communication, Doran said.

"Let's focus on the solutions. Let's not try to convince each other of reasons why," he said.

Even without a majority believe in climate change, he said, farmers are realizing there is an impact on corn production and they are taking efforts to irrigate and tile their fields to deal with water shortages.

"People are starting to realize weird stuff is happening," Ambs said.

— Lindsay Knake covers environment for MLive/The Saginaw News. Follow her on twitter or contact her at 989-372-2498 or

Did you find this article useful?

You Might Also Be Interested In