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An Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Lakes

The Environmental Law & Policy Center, in concert with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, commissioned the following scientists and experts to produce this report to educate policymakers and the public about the significant changes affecting the Great Lakes, and the vital importance of taking actions now to protect our natural resources. The Great Lakes are extremely important both to humans and to wildlife – they are an abundant freshwater resource for water supplies, industry, shipping, fishing, and recreation, as well as a rich and diverse ecosystem. However, over the last two centuries, the Great Lakes and the broader basin have been significantly affected by human activities, leading to habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, and an influx of biological and chemical pollutants that present substantial environmental challenges. These impacts have impaired water quality, threatened wildlife populations, and jeopardized the health and economic vitality of the region. Now, climate change is adding new challenges and significant additional stress to conditions in and surrounding the Great Lakes.

This report assesses the current and projected impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes. This assessment aims to evaluate the effects of climate change on the Great Lakes, its shorelines, regional land use, biodiversity, and urban cities on the lakes. The assessment does not aim to address all of the basins feeding the lakes or the states around the lakes but provides an update on prior analyses of such impacts. The Midwest chapter from Volume II of the 4th National Climate Assessment (USGCRP, 2018) also includes some discussion of the impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes; this assessment is intended to be a more thorough look at those current and potential impacts.

For the full report, select here.