Whether readers are looking for ways to minimize the effects of climate change, or are not yet convinced change is happening, Dr. David Karowe has a presentation worth watching.

In a public talk at the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS), Karowe addressed the evidence for, causes of, and impacts from “Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region.”

The biggest message Karowe asked the audience to take from his presentation was the fact that people have a choice in creating Earth’s future. “It is up to us.” To that end, Karowe closed the talk with a list of eight things people can do to minimize the impacts of climate change. These include actions that can actually change future climate outcomes, such as

  • demanding policymakers support non-fossil fuel energy sources,
  • talking about climate change consequences and solutions with people,
  • making climate change a voting issue,

as well as delaying the build-up of climate-changing gases in the atmosphere by practicing energy efficiency and conservation (e.g. pay attention to gas mileage when making vehicle purchases; modify diet to use less beef).

The bulk of the talk is a comparison of future outcomes in the Great Lakes region depending on whether current practices remain in place or the world adopts practices in the Paris Agreement. Karowe says both scenarios are “way different than anything Earth has experienced in quite some time,” but impacts under the Paris Agreement are much less dramatic.

If fossil fuel consumption and emissions continue at current levels, Earth can expect to experience a 4-5 degree Celsius rise (7-9 degrees Farenheit) in the average temperature by the end of this century. While that may not seem like much change, Karowe said, “The last time our planet was five degrees cooler, this room and most of the Great Lakes region was under about one mile of ice.”

In a 4-5 degree warmer world, the Great Lakes region would experience more of its precipitation as heavy rain and less as snow, have hotter and drier summers and more toxic algae blooms, lose bird species like the Common Loon and White-Throated Sparrow and fish species like trout and salmon, and experience more forest fires. All of these changes would be reduced if the Paris Agreement were implemented.

David Karowe is a Professor of Biological Sciences at Western Michigan University with research interests in climate change ecology. He teaches General Ecology and co-directs the Research Experience for Undergraduates program at UMBS. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.