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Change: Plan it


Welcome to the Change: Plan it podcast, I’m Michelle Lee, and the topic of today’s discussion is climate change, it’s effects here in Michigan, and what we can do about it.

For the podcast, I interviewed Professor John Benedict. First I asked him to introduce himself:

J: So I’m John Benedict, I work at the University of Michigan within the Program in the Environment. So I teach classes related to a lot of different contemporary issues that deal with our interaction with the natural world.

M: Then I asked him to explain what climate change is.

J: The theory of climate change is that humans have generated carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, that, are warming the planet and creating a more unstable climate.

M: Following up, I asked him what are some of the effects of climate change around Michigan.

J: The major things that people are focusing on in terms of climate change impact on the Great Lakes region are the increase in severity of weather. So precipitation may or may not change, but what we do know is that precipitation is going to change in terms of timing as well as in terms of intensity . And this impact of precipitation on the environment where we’ll have longer periods of dry weather which will then really negatively impact things like soil moisture which will then really negatively impact our arborescent long lived trees like maples and cedars and so with this just one slightly subtle change, not even really going into the amount of precipitation
over the year but where that precipitation is coming, may have really big impacts in terms of soil moisture where particular organisms are distributed like plants and then also some major impacts to migratory organisms like birds that will either migrate further north and leave the Great Lakes region or will migrate at different times, which can upset a lot of really subtle balances between predators and prey; so their food stuff may also be changing as well as their presence or absence in the environment. Again this general warming isn’t necessarily totally bad for people; so a lot of data suggests that there maybe with an increase in CO2, plants use CO2 and so with more of it available they’ll maybe be able to grow bigger and so there are postulations that the agricultural sector will actually improve because it’ll bring, usher in longer growing seasons as well as more freely available nutrients in terms of CO2 for plants to use for photosynthesis. The downside to this is there’s also going to be an increase in things like ozone that will have really deleterious impacts to the agricultural sector in terms of offsetting this increased kind of nutrient availability of plants. And so typically what people would look at now
again is an agricultural sector we may see some very short term ephemeral merits of climate change in terms of increased CO2 availability but typically like I was mentioning with precipitation, precipitation will be falling in less opportune times so precipitation is actually postulated to be falling outside of the growing season so it will no longer be helpful for farmers and so there will be increase in drought because a lot of farmers out here rely on precipitation
for their water as opposed to irrigation. This increase in temperatures of the Great Lakes may upset the balance in terms of generating larger dead zones, which then will hurt fish populations and then that directly impacts people that utilize fish as their primary resources for generating income so overall, broadly speaking, typically the associated impacts of increased temperatures in the regions are for the most part going to be negative.

M: I then asked him what we, as individuals, can do to mitigate the effects he explained:

J: There are a lot of personal things that people can do in terms of our everyday lives, because, yes the majority of carbon emissions do come from industry and energy generation, but a very large factor of carbon emissions do come from the agricultural sectors Cows are a huge contributing factor to greenhouse gasses and so simple changes like diet can have real impacts
in terms of the amount of carbon emissions that we generate as individuals. And then collectively as a society, what things we can do, again, in terms of infrastructural investments, where we create renewable portfolios for energy generating companies to follow in terms of increasing their renewable footprints and incentives in terms of allowing people to install solar
panels for a cheaper rate or to reduce their costs in terms of their own energy generation; vehicles that have reduced emissions that rely on electricity and so on. So there are a lot of things, to change our own carbon footprints and it can be something as easy as again a meatless Monday or really being conscious of the types of activities that are generating a greater carbon footprint. So there’s a lot of really cool ways we can mitigate our climate impact outside of simply, again, a federal tax or outside of sort of government mandates. The individual does have a large contribution and potential contribution to this particular problem.

M: Well there you have it. As Professor Benedict mentioned, there are many negative effects of climate change such as more intense weather patterns, creation of dead zones, and changes in migratory organisms that are impacting the state that you and I live in, Michigan. However, we don’t have to be mere bystanders, but instead could change our diets, vote in elections, or being a more conscious consumer. This was the Change: Plan it Podcast. Thank you for your time.