Increased precipitation, warmer temperatures, significant seasonal changes, more disease, and devastating storms have been seen in western Michigan. These are symptoms of a larger problem: climate change.
For the region Grand Valley State University calls home, it’s arrived sooner rather than later.
“Climate change is happening everywhere, it’s a global phenomenon,” said Dr. Elena Lyoubimtseva, professor of geography and sustainable planning at GVSU. “Western Michigan is no exception.”
Professor Lyubimtseva has conducted research and led the battle against climate change throughout her academic career, teaching courses at GVSU on the damage caused by climate change and how students can help. His research explores the changes that West Michiganders have experienced in recent years.
“The simplest observable impact is already precipitation changes and temperature changes,” Lyubimtseva said. “Western Michigan’s climate in recent years is two or three degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was in the mid-20th century.”
For Michigan industries like agriculture, the growing period will be extended from increases in temperature, but with the cost of lower yields with much more volatility due to weather events, increased storms pose a great risk. for crops.
For the average person, a rise in temperature will cost them the normality of Michigan’s routine seasonal transformations.
“We are losing our winter, it is getting shorter and warmer,” Lyubimtseva said. “We are also experiencing significant warming in the spring between two and a half and three degrees. You’ve probably experienced it in your lifetime, the shoulder seasons get longer and longer endlessly.
These warm weather conditions, Lyubimtseva pointed out, are ripe for the proliferation of disease, causing more previously rare diseases to appear in Michigan communities.
“We know more about vector-borne diseases, like ticks and mosquitoes and other insects are often carriers of diseases,” Lyubimtseva said. “These warmer climatic conditions are more favorable to these insects and the diseases they carry. We have more cases of West Nile virus and Lyme disease. »
What the region has witnessed, Lyubimtseva warned, will not end anytime soon.
“Over the next five years, we will see more similar trends continuing in the future,” Lyubimtseva said. “More precipitation, more heat waves in summer, loss of snow in winter. Paradoxically, we can experience very cold temperatures in winter with the loss of ice in the Arctic.
But all is not catastrophic. Grand Valley students and faculty have done their part in the fight against climate change, and that means knowing your enemy.
“I got together with a group of other professors and students, as well as teachers from the local community, and basically created the Climate Change Education Solutions Network,” Lyubimtseva said. “We started this to help support local schools first. We then contacted professors from all departments to share their expertise on climate change, and essentially, we offered speakers to local schools (and) free presentations to classes. We launched an annual summit, our first in 2019.”
The network’s work has helped both educate local schools and ensure that educators learn more about climate change.
“Grand Valley has done a lot with its sustainability program, one of the best in the country,” Lyubimtseva said. “Its infrastructure for many years has been fantastic.”
The Office of Sustainability Practices has for years led the way in the fight against climate change. They provide students and community members with ways to recycle, compost, and participate in environmental activities that will enrich the area and even develop efficient and economical green buildings.
“Not all people and communities are equally sensitive to climate change,” Lyubimtseva said. “As we think about solutions to climate change, it’s really important to think about how we protect the most vulnerable people.”
These vulnerable populations, Lyubimtseva said, must be included as the GVSU region determines how to end the threat of continued climate change.
“I think it’s important to realize that climate change does not affect everyone equally,” Lyubimtseva said. “Older people, infants, the poor, the homeless, people with reduced mobility, people who don’t have air conditioning – we need to have strong infrastructure to protect these people.”