Climate Change and Variability

The Great Lakes region’s unique climate provides us with bountiful natural resources and abundant sources of food. But over the past century, the region, including Michigan, has experienced changes in its climate, including shifts in precipitation and temperature. Many are concerned that these changes may negatively affect Michigan agriculture, public health, tourism, biodiversity and energy costs. 

Evidence from researchers at Michigan State University—and from climate scientists around the world—indicates that the world’s climate is undergoing rapid changes, and Michigan’s climate reflects this. For example, the first decade of the 21st Century was the warmest on record, for Michigan and the United States as a whole.

Climatic change has occurred in the past as a result of natural causes, such as slight changes in the Earth’s orbit, variances in solar activity and volcanic eruptions. Yet these factors can’t explain the recent changes in the Great Lakes region over the past century. Climate scientists agree that this warming is primarily the result of burning fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum. The carbon in these fuels is converted to carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere, which traps some of the sun’s energy. While this means that humans are responsible for some of the changes in the climate, it also means that we have the power and capacity to slow down climate change.

This program page contains scientific background and reference materials on climate change and variability. Our hope is that these resources will facilitate discussions and programs aimed at adapting to and slowing down climate change. 

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