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 JWARP  Vol.10 No.11 , November 2018
The Great Lapse: Climate Change, Water Resources and Economic Risks in the Great Lakes
Abstract: The striking vastness of the world’s largest surface freshwater resource, the Laurentian Great Lakes, has generated the fallacy that they are not highly vulnerable to climate change. This fallacy has created a great lapse in our research and understanding of the effects of climate change on the Great Lakes, which are approaching critical environmental thresholds and jeopardizing ecosystem services. This article takes the novel approach of correcting the disconnect between the perception of vastness and the reality of vulnerability to climate change in the Great Lakes, and takes an additional novel step to link the water risks with the economic risks. The primary purpose is to demonstrate the interdependence of the freshwater ecosystem services affected by climate change with the economies that are highly dependent on those freshwater services in the Great Lakes region. Although many believe that environmental science or ethical arguments should be sufficient to warrant action on climate change, evidence shows that policy-makers are not compelled to generate advances unless there are strong economic components. This article highlights the leading edge of climate science for the Great Lakes, having conducted 32 in depth interviews with experts in microbiology, ecology, and limnology, among others, but it also adds substantively to previous work by providing economic evidence of water risks in the agricultural sector and energy sector, which constitute over $6 trillion in value and jobs that are specifically dependent on lakes waters. The article concludes by articulating three specific conclusions: the economic viability of the agricultural sector and the energy sector are jeopardized by loss of federal funding for climate change adaptation in the water sector; the existing policies such as between sectors such as the Farm Bill and Energy Future Bill are mal-aligned and should be aligned with the water sector; and negative environmental externalities including factors that exacerbate climate change should be incorporated into the true cost of water so we can more accurately conduct ecosystem valuation and, thus, address the true economic and environmental cost of climate change on the Great Lakes and our greatest water resources. This paper has not previously been published.
Cite this paper: Kehl, J. (2018) The Great Lapse: Climate Change, Water Resources and Economic Risks in the Great Lakes. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 10, 1106-1114. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2018.1011065.
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