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For many years, global warning has been an issue of debate. However, as more studies are conducted, the evidence is proving that it is a reality. The Earth’s climate has changed in the past and will continue to do so in the future. A problem arises when warming trends we are facing are accelerating and caused by human, rather than by natural occurrences.
Climate change is caused by the emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), which form a layer in the atmosphere and trap solar energy. If we do not curb the rise in emissions, we will face serious consequences, as global warming can destroy the Great Lakes’ economy, wildlife and way of life by changing climate patterns.
We are already seeing proof of global warming. The Great Lakes contain the Earth’s largest concentration of surface fresh water and are thawing earlier each spring, according to an analysis of ice break-ups dating back to 1846. A team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison studies the timing of ice break-ups on 61 lakes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and Ontario between 1975 and 2004, during which time the average global air temperature rose by 0.4 degrees Celsius. On 56 of the area lakes, the spring thaw has taken place, on average, two days earlier each decade. Although the thaw has been occurring earlier ever since 1846, the rate of change is now more than three times as fast as it was before 1975.
While the full extent of climate change’s impact cannot be predicted, it has been concluded that it will be serious. For example, the Great Lakes will likely experience a wide range of negative effects caused by global warming, including a drop in lake levels during the next century by approximately one foot on Lake Superior, three feet on lakes Michigan and Huron, 2.7 feet on Lake Erie, and 1.7 feet on Lake Ontario. Additionally, water quality will likely worsen as more intense storms send polluted urban and agricultural runoff into our waterways, and biological dead zones will increase, jeopardizing the lives of ﬁsh and other aquatic creatures.
Recently, there has been much discourse about addressing global warming, and climate action in the United States is expected to ﬁnally move forward in the near future—not only are bills being debated in Congress, but more notably, Copenhagen 2009 has occurred. In 1992, representatives from 172 governments from across the world gathered in Rio de Janeiro to discuss global warming. The result of the conference was the ﬁrst international agreement to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. In 1997, the agreement was expanded with the Kyoto Protocol, which set binding target for how much industrialized countries should reduce their emissions by 2012.
Copenhagen 2009 was a climate change summit where negotiations for a new agreement for subsequent years were to proceed. The result of the two-week long summit is the Copenhagen Accord in which leaders from the United States, China, India, Brazil, South Africa and about 20 other countries committed to emission cuts that will be open to international review. While some consider Copenhagen 2009 a failure since the Accord is not a legally-binding treaty, the negotiations in Copenhagen took an important step toward addressing climate change in the 21st century.
WHY IS ALL OF THIS RELEVANT TO RECREATIONAL BOATING?
Copenhagen 2009 sets the stage for persuading the United States Senate to adopt clean energy and climate legislation. One of the major sticking points in the Senate has been how to deal with China’s growing role in climate pollution. In Copenhagen, President Obama engaged in 14 hours of direct negotiations with the Chinese and other world leaders and left the Danish capital with an agreement in which both the United States and China pledged to limit emissions of global warming pollution by speciﬁc amounts. This could result in new regulations of sources of pollution and could set new emissions standards that will likely impact boats in the future.