Great Lakes Restoration and the Threat of Global Warming

Dave Dempsey, Jane Elder
Posted on: 5/30/2008 - Updated on: 9/08/2023

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The Earth’s climate is warming, and the impacts are already being observed in the Great Lakes — the source of nearly a fifth of the world's surface freshwater. This report synthesizes current climate change science and presents the likely impacts warming temperatures will have on the Great Lakes, people and wildlife. It also provides recommendations for curbing global warming while at the same time preserving the resilience and adaptive capacity of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

The lakes likely will experience a wide range of negative impacts as air and water temperatures increase. The Great Lakes are already a highly stressed ecosystem, and climate change will exacerbate existing threats to the lakes.

People, businesses and communities will see changes to the regional economy and quality of life, including potential conflicts between shoreline property owners and the public; diminished fishing, hunting and swimming opportunities; challenges to our economy such as impacts to the shipping industry.

The good news is that there are solutions. Some of the suggested solutions are:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions (80 percent reduction by mid-century)
  • Maximize options for species protection and preserving biodiversity
  • Restore vital ecosystem services such as water filtration and storage, pollination, soil enrichment and support of the food web

Many of these measures have been incorporated into a comprehensive strategy to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Inserted into federal legislation, the strategy is the subject of a national campaign by the Healing Our Waters® - Great Lakes Coalition.


Dempsey, D., Elder, J., & Scavia, D. (2008). Great Lakes Restoration and the Threat of Global Warming. Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. Retrieved from CAKE: