call for efforts to lower emissions
By David Steinkraus
The Associated Press
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- Emissions of carbon dioxide from autos
and power plants will cause temperature increases in the
Great Lakes region over the coming century, according to
a report released Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Some Wisconsin scientists question that conclusion, however.
The report said that winter temperatures in the region
could increase by up to 16 degrees in the summer and 14
degrees in the winter by the end of the century.
"In the next 100 years, we will have the same amount
of warming as seen since the last Ice Age -- 100,000 years
ago," said George Kling, a biology professor at the
University of Michigan and the lead author of the report,
at a news conference in this Detroit suburb.
Auto and power companies say they are aggressively moving
ahead with fuel efficient hybrid vehicles and clean fuel
technology to reduce emissions.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, in conjunction with
the Ecological Society of America, put forward three broad
recommendations: Reduce emissions, minimize the impact
of the emissions, and anticipate and plan for the change.
The estimates of temperature rises were based on a model
that assumes high emission rates and continued dependence
on fossil fuels. Even with reduced emissions, temperatures
will climb over the coming decades, resulting in flooding,
droughts and lower lake levels, the report said. The report
also said that the region's ecological balance could change,
bringing in new species to replace those here now.
The report notes that changing weather patterns will,
by the century's end, mean that Michigan and Wisconsin
summers would resemble those currently in Arkansas and
summer in Illinois would be like that of east Texas --
hot and stiflingly humid.
Climatologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
said they were skeptical. Though they had not reviewed
the report, they said such conclusions don't jibe with
"Global warming is happening. It's caused by CO2
(carbon dioxide) at a global scale," said Zheng-Yu
Liu, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences. But
forecasting regional climatic variations based on what
we know now is very speculative, he said.
Climatic models make assumptions, said Ed Hopkins, a
lecturer in atmospheric and oceanic sciences and assistant
state climatologist, and models don't necessarily reflect
what happens in reality. "There are various types
of feedback mechanisms that the models are not really
Water vapor is the most important agent of warming because
it forms clouds which can reflect sunlight, he said. The
Earth's orbit around the sun varies, altering the strength
of sunlight, he said, and the Earth wobbles as it spins,
also affecting the amount of sunlight in summer and winter.
In fact, models have failed to predict the climate we
now have when fed data from the past, Hopkins said. It's
risky, too, he said, to assume that our lifestyles won't
change, that we'll continue to use fossil fuels at the
"And so trying to make a forecast out for a hundred
years or so it may be interesting intellectually, but
it may not be something that you necessarily want to stick
your neck out on," Hopkins said.
Of the total heat-trapping gasses produced in the Great
Lakes region, transportation accounts for 23 percent,
topped only by utilities at 30 percent, the report said.
Michigan, by virtue of being home to automakers Ford
Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG,
can play a lead role in the efforts to curb such emissions,
said David Friedman, a senior engineer at the Union of
Concerned Scientists Clean Vehicles program. But the companies
will have assume their responsibility in pushing forward
with fuel cell and hybrid vehicle technology, he said.
Car companies say they are working to introduce more
fuel efficient vehicles. Ford will begin selling its Escape
Hybrid SUV by the end of the year. Company spokeswoman
Angela Coletti says it will be the first "no compromise
hybrid SUV" to be introduced to the market.
"Hybrid vehicles are the heart of our plan for the
future," said General Motors spokesman Mike Morrissey,
noting that up until 2000, hybrid vehicles "had limited
appeal because customers were forced to chose between
fuel economy and functionality."
The company is planning on introducing a part-hybrid
Chevrolet Silverado in 2004 that will boost fuel efficiency
for the V-8 truck by 10-15 percent. The following year,
it will bring out a hybrid Saturn Vue. In all, it plans
hybrid engines for 11 of its most popular models.
DaimlerChrysler is gearing up for a similar offering
in a "mild hybrid" Dodge Ram pickup that incorporates
an electric motor and a diesel engine. This combination
should boost efficiency by up to 15 percent.
Kling, and his colleagues from various Midwestern and
Canadian universities, said that other measures that must
be introduced include emissions caps and trading, improving
soil management on farmlands, and limiting urban sprawl.
"The cost of inaction is far greater than the cost
of action," he said.