Eighth Sustainable Ann Arbor Series Focuses on Climate Change with Presentation, “Adapting to a Changing Climate”

On Tuesday night, the Ann Arbor District Library hosted a lecture titled “Adapting to a Changing Climate” as part of the eighth annual Sustainable Ann Arbor Series. The event consisted of conversations between leaders of local community organizations, business owners, government officials and residents on the topics of environmental sustainability and the challenges the Ann Arbor community faces in implementing its sustainability agendas.

Beth Gibbons, the executive director of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals, discussed the importance of scale when considering the impact of climate change.

“There is a global, a regional and a local story,” said Gibbons. “The local trends in our climate are more certain than our regional trends. Our regional trends here in the Great Lakes region are really defined by our climate drivers, which for us, are those Great Lakes.”

Gibbons continued by stating the importance of the Great Lakes in creating their own regional climate, a situation linked to the larger global climate patterns. Despite what may seem to be an unchangeable situation because of the largely uncontrollable nature of climate patterns, Gibbons emphasized that how people control how they respond to these climatic influences.

“We have a lot of control over how those impacts will feel for our community,” Gibbons said. “The choices in our policies, our land use, the way that we pave or don’t pave, the preservation of green space, the way that we manage our cities has a tremendous effect on the impacts of climate change.”

Gibbons presented the audience with scientific data showing large amount of carbon in the atmosphere, challenging the audience to act now to reverse the detrimental effects of the excess carbon in the air we breathe.

“Language is an option, but action is not an option,” Gibbons said.

Melissa Stults, sustainability and innovations manager for the city of Ann Arbor, stated the number of natural disasters in the world is on the rise.

“No part of the country is immune from a natural disaster,” Stults said. “If you look at this map, it’s not as if you sit in the Midwest and you are safe from a natural disaster.”

Stults said the annual precipitation seen in Ann Arbor is equivalent to 23 full Michigan Stadiums, a situation caused by the impact of the warming of our planet on weather systems.

Engineering junior Logan Vear, president of the Climate Action Movement at the University of Michigan, came to the presentation in an effort to bridge the gap between the efforts of Ann Arbor residents and students at the University to promote sustainable solutions to pressing environmental issues.

“I think the most interesting thing for me was one of the stats at the very beginning when it said that 70 percent of people say that they value the environment more than the economy,” Vear said. “I thought that was an interesting point, just given that a lot of the pushback within all of the climate action that’s going on within the city, the University and across the nation is based on the economics behind (the environment), but I think it’s really important to realize that people know that this is important and that we need to take action.”

Also attending the presentation was interdisciplinary biology teacher Drake Meadow, who teaches at the Early College Alliance, an extracurricular high school program at Eastern Michigan University. Meadow said his desire to learn more about how to spark interest in the classroom about sustainability and climate change inspired him to attend.

“I’m always on the lookout for ways to positively engage students in thinking about climate change,” Meadow said. “Planning for climate change, and doing so in a way that realizes both the gravity of the problem but also gives some hopeful ways to act into the problem.”

Ann Arbor resident Lauren Sargent attended the event because she is interested in taking action to positively transform environmental and economic policies, specifically regarding sustainable and clean energy solutions. Sargent mentioned how people have largely postponed responding head-on to the climate crisis until recently.

“Now we’re up against climate-ecosystem collapse, and now people are like, ‘Oh, maybe now we should do something about it,” Sargent said.

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