The State of Climate Change Adaptation in the Great Lakes Region
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It is a global problem that threatens the success and longevity of conservation and management actions. Strategies undertaken to address the causes and effects of global climate change are classified as either mitigation or adaptation. Mitigation strategies help reduce the rate and extent of change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions or enhancing carbon uptake and sequestration. Adaptation strategies help people prepare for the unavoidable effects of climate change, either by minimizing negative impacts or exploiting potential opportunities. Adaptation, along with mitigation, is a critical component of any climate change response strategy.
The field of climate change adaptation is in a period of critical transition. The general concepts of adaptation have been well developed over the past decade. Now, practitioners must move from generalities to concrete actions, including implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. EcoAdapt strives to facilitate this transition by providing relevant adaptation examples and a forum for knowledge sharing.
The purpose of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program is to promote adaptation action by:
- Providing real-life, practical adaptation case studies to catalyze creative thinking.
- Synthesizing information collected through interviews and surveys to further develop the field of study and action.
We use the information collected to create synthesis reports, such as this one, and share the case studies and other resources through the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE), a website that supports open access information exchange between practitioners. CAKE includes case studies, a library, a community forum, a directory of individuals and organizations interested and/or engaged in adaptation, and a tools section of resources for adaptation action.
The intent of this report is to provide a brief overview of key climate change impacts and a review of the prevalent work occurring on climate change adaptation in the Great Lakes region, especially focusing on activities in the natural and built environments as they relate to freshwater resources (and in some cases, at the freshwater/terrestrial interface). This report presents the results of EcoAdapt’s efforts to survey, inventory, and, where possible, assess adaptation activities in the Great Lakes region.
First, we provide a summary of climate change impacts and secondary effects on freshwater environments and resources in the Great Lakes region, specifically focusing on changes in air and water temperatures, precipitation patterns, lake levels, and water chemistry.
We then provide summaries of and trends in commonly used adaptation approaches and examples from our survey and other resources. We separate these examples into four broad categories listed below:
- Capacity Building: Strategies include,
- Policy: Strategies include,
- Natural Resource Management & Conservation: Strategies include,
- Infrastructure, Planning & Development: Strategies include,
The report concludes with a discussion of the challenges to and opportunities for climate change adaptation in the Great Lakes region. The majority of adaptation efforts in the Great Lakes region thus far has been focused on capacity building, including improving understanding and awareness, acquiring or developing resources, and developing collaborative partnerships. Important next steps for advancing climate change adaptation in the Great Lakes region are to increase knowledge sharing between practitioners, to encourage more planning and integration across political and sectoral boundaries, to implement actions, and to monitor and evaluate the efficacy of these activities.
Global climate change is having and will continue to have short- and long-term effects on the Great Lakes region. Adaptation approaches are key to helping the region prepare for and respond to climate change impacts by decreasing vulnerability and increasing resilience. Some of the strategies presented in this report are more feasible than others for different individuals and organizations; planners, managers, and other practitioners will have to make decisions based on cost-benefit and feasibility analyses of different adaptation options depending on their political, institutional, technical, and financial capacity. Advancing climate change adaptation in the Great Lakes region will require support for implementation and the evaluation of effectiveness.
Gregg, R. M., K. M. Feifel, J. M. Kershner, and J. L. Hitt. 2012. The State of Climate Change
Adaptation in the Great Lakes Region. EcoAdapt, Bainbridge Island, WA.
Thank you to the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation for providing financial support. We would especially like to thank Sam Passmore for his guidance. Thank you to our peer reviewers, Heather Stirratt (NOAA's National Ocean Service) and Molly Woloszyn (Midwestern Regional Climate Center/Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant), for their invaluable input and insights. Finally, thank you to the numerous individuals who contributed materials and participated in interviews and surveys for this project. We hope that our products will promote and support your adaptation efforts.
- Addressing Climate Change Impacts in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
- Addressing Climate Change in the International Upper Great Lakes Study
- Assessing the Relative Coastal Vulnerability of National Park Units to Sea Level Rise and Lake Level Changes
- Climate Change and Coastal Adaptation Options for the Great Lakes
- Fostering a Climate-Informed Community Perspective in the Great Lakes: The Great Lakes Community Climate Program
- Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities
- Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Communities: Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Adaptation Strategies
- Great Lakes Observing System
- Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
- Preparing for Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region
- The Climate Change Response Framework: Supporting Climate-Smart Conservation and Forest Management in the Great Lakes Region
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Climate Initiatives
- The National Wildlife Federation’s Climate-Smart Restoration Partnership in the Great Lakes
- Building Capacity for Climate-Resilient Communities and Water Conservation in the Huron River Watershed
- Climate Adaptation in the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Climate Change, the Great Lakes, and Mining
- Developing a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Forest and Water Resources in Alger County, Michigan
- Helping Michigan’s Farmers Understand and Adapt to the Impacts of Climate Change
- Rein in the Runoff: Michigan’s Spring Lake Stormwater Management Project
- The Michigan Climate Coalition: Enhancing Networking and Collaboration, Communication, and Action Around Climate Change in Michigan
- Using Green Infrastructure to Prevent Sewage Overflows in Detroit
- Climate Change Adaptation Planning at the State Level in Minnesota
- Identifying Climate Refugia for Moose Populations in Voyageurs National Park (VOYA) using GPS Telemetry
- Integrating Climate Change into Water Quality Monitoring on the Fond du Lac Reservation in Minnesota
- Sustaining Lakes in a Changing Environment (SLICE): A Long-term Monitoring and Evaluation Program
- Weather – Extreme Trends (WET): The Minnehaha Creek Watershed Stormwater Adaptation Study
- Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Planning in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Coastal Communities
- Enhancing Climate Change Education and Outreach for Wisconsin’s Coastal Communities
- Integrating Climate Change into the Planning and Operations of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
- Investigating the Impact of Climate Change on Combined and Separate Sewer Overflows in Milwaukee Watersheds
- Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts: A Bottom-Up Approach to Developing Climate Change Adaptation Strategies
- Adapting to Climate Change in Ontario Parks
- Climate Consortium for Research Action and Integration (CC-RAI)
- Developing Ontario’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan
- Fish, Fisheries, and Water Resources: Adapting to Ontario’s Changing Climate
- Integrating Climate Change into Municipal Watershed Management in Ontario
- London, Ontario’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy
- Ontario Regional Adaptation Collaborative
- The City of Toronto’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: From Development to Implementation
- The Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources’ Climate Adaptation Initiatives