UM Researchers helped write National Climate Assessment, focused on impact in Great Lakes

Posted at 8:02 PM, Nov 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-28 11:00:12-05

If you are wondering when climate change is going to impact you here in metro-Detroit, it already is.

Some researchers at the University of Michigan helped write a federal report just released on Friday, taking a look at impacts across the nation.  They say changes are already happening and intensifying.

“Things are going to get worse and they are going to get more threatening,” said Maria Carmen Lemos, Professor at the School for Environment & Sustainability at the University of Michigan.

Lemos and Great Lakes Integrated Sciences & Assessments Program Director Jenna Jorns are two of the lead authors of the assessment.  Their writing focused on the Great Lakes region.

“We have already seen warmer temperatures in our air and in our lakes. The chapter features a special feature on the Great Lakes themselves that talks about the decline we have seen in lake ice cover. We have seen changes in agriculture, the length of the growing season and what types of crops can be planted, as well as changes in forestry. What types of trees can grow in our region for example,” said Jorns.

They expect to see increases in algae blooms in the lakes and infectious diseases more common in warmer temperatures.

They have seen the work in the report politicized.

“With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many US states,” the report says.

“I don’t believe it,” said President Donald Trump, when asked what he thought of the reports statements on the economic impact.

The report provided numerous examples of how climate change is already having an economic impact.  To take a look at an example impacting Michigan, the report said, “Warmer winters can lead to early bud burst or bloom of some perennial plants, resulting in frost damage when cold conditions occur in late spring, as was the case with cherries in Michigan in 2012, leading to an economic impact of $220 million.”

Lemos and Jorns say they don’t want to get involved in politics, just spread knowledge.

“The fourth National Climate Assessment is the authoritative word of the U.S. government and is the most up to date and accurate scientific assessment of climate change in the United States,” said Jorns.

“A team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences,” said the first page of the website where the report is posted for the public.

“The message of this report is that things are getting more threatening, but also it is inviting us to think about things we can do right now to either mitigate the effects of climate change or better respond to recover from it,” said Lemos.

You can read the report for yourself at