Climate Change prompts Glen Lake student beach cleanup, film showing


Photo courtesy, Friends of Sleeping Bear

Photo courtesy, Friends of Sleeping Bear

On eve of Earth Day, McKibben’s Do the Math shows in Empire

By Emma Velis
Sun contributor

There is trash on our beaches, the climate is changing, and Glen Lake High School’s Students for World Awareness (SWA) want our community to do something about it.

With Earth Day approaching, the students of the club have planned an event to increase environmental consciousness within their Leelanau County community. Titled Swananigans, a quirky mix of SWA and shenanigans, the event will take place Sunday, April 21. Originally planning a community beach clean-up, SWA students were excited to learn that the day they had chosen for their event corresponded with the premier of Do The Math, a movie by Bill McKibben to support his movement against climate change.

The event, which takes place on the Eve of Earth Day, will begin with a beach walk to remove trash from the Lake Michigan beach. The club’s president, Ella Skrocki, emphasizes that this is a community event. She hopes to bring people together to enjoy the natural world while simultaneously helping it. The students invite any interested community members to join them at 4 p.m. on Empire beach and plan to walk until 6 p.m. Later that night, the students will show Do The Math. They plan to begin the showing at 7 p.m. in the open space next to the post office in downtown Empire. Entrance to the movie will be free so all are welcome. However, if weather poses a problem an alternative location is available.

Some may balk at the audacity necessary to write a story about global warming on a 35-degree day in mid-April. For those of us who look out our windows and see substantial piles of snow almost a month after the official start of spring, global warming can seem a little far-fetched. However, the emphasis of many scientists and environmentalists has moved toward an idea of climate change. It is all change that, more than the singular idea of warming, has scientists concerned.

The change reported shows a concerning trend toward extreme weather. The emphasis on this trend is supported by the recent onset of winter storms. The Great 2012 Snowstorm that hit in early March left most without power for several days. Similarly this year, northern Michigan has seen enough heavy snowfalls that the snow day count threatens to keep many schools in session into the summer. Such extreme precipitation events are predicted to continue at a higher-than-normal rate. Last year, a study by Environment America Research & Policy Center over precipitation between 1948 and 2011 revealed that extreme precipitation events are now occurring 30 percent more regularly than in the middle of the 20th century. In addition, these events come with more precipitation than they previously had. This means that we’re getting a higher number of intense storms that are more extreme than they used to be.

But how can global warming make snowstorms worse? It’s a good question. The answer is that warm air holds more water than cold air. Therefore a warmer atmosphere, one that is so because of increased levels of carbon, holds more potential precipitation. With an atmosphere so full of water, it’s no surprise that “when it rains, it pours,” and when it snows, it storms.

In addition to increased storm intensity, climate change is leading to many things that have very real effects on northern Michigan. While snowstorms are more intense, winter is generally warmer. This means less snow at the beginning of the season—a time crucial to building the base of snowpack necessary for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. As winters become milder, the economy of northern Michigan is negatively affected by the loss of income drawn by these winter sports.

More economic effects come when the growing season for cherries hits. Last year, up to 90 percent of some farmers’ tart cherry crops were lost because warm March weather coaxed out buds prematurely. They were then destroyed by late-season storms and cold snaps. Again, climate change is causing an increase in such severe storms. In addition, colder nights are another extreme weather occurrence thought to be caused by the climate change trends.