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Published: Thursday, 12/4/2008

Climate change could promote growth of 'Michigan Buckeyes'

BY TOM BULLOCK AND ANDY BUCHSBAUM

WE OFTEN think of global warming as something far away, a problem for polar bears and ice caps at the North Pole. But take note, fellow residents of the Buckeye and Wolverine States: Global warming could hit very, very close to home, reaching down even into the ranks of college football fans.

But as satisfying as the big game was this year, with Ohio State winning 42-7, things could take a turn for the worse in the future. Yes, according to recent studies, Ohio's buckeye tree - symbol of five straight wins over Michigan could be on - the march north due to global warming.

Projections in a scientific study published last year in BioScience magazine indicate that, due to global warming, the growing ranges for many plants, including the Ohio buckeye, could shift because suitable habitat will likely be reduced in the buckeye's home range, while more will be created in northern regions. In plain English, this means growing conditions for the buckeye could not only get worse in Ohio, but more favorable in northern states such as Michigan.

Global climate change, of course, poses a serious threat to many parts of the world and many people, but the plight of the buckeye drives home what could happen if we don't reduce our global warming pollution. And it's not just the buckeye tree at stake. Other trees commercially significant to regional foresters are also at risk.

The buckeye's fate - and that of other plants, animals, and people connected in our ecological web - is not yet sealed; there's still time to act. To make a difference, however, Congress has to get into the game now.

To avoid the worst economic and environmental effects policymakers must ensure global warming emission reductions of 80 percent by 2050, as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The best way to meet this goal is to establish mandatory federal policies to steadily reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Such policies will boost entrepreneurial development of cleaner, energy-efficient technologies and industries. In fact, venture capitalists have already recognized this new market potential, investing $2.7 billion in green technologies in 2007, a 450 percent increase from 2000.

We've got the ingenuity and the technology in place to tackle global warming - an effort that both Michigan and Ohio are prepared to champion. Ohio is already leading in the production of green technologies. Toledo is a hub for solar manufacturing, and the state is poised to gain new jobs making wind turbines. In Michigan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently kicked off a green jobs initiative to help residents get job training in growing alternative energy industries.

But we need to do more, and for that we need a national policy that addresses the threat of global warming.

In January, members of the Michigan and Ohio congressional delegations must work with the new president to pass legislation to definitively reduce America's global warming pollution. Bold action is needed to not only save the Ohio buckeye from a lonely exile to the Wolverine State, but to create new jobs and speed economic recovery across the Midwest.

So while the stakes of this November's gridiron clash in Columbus were high, the stakes next year in Congress are even higher. We can't afford to punt the problem of global warming to our children and grandchildren. That is, not unless you want your kids to root for the "Michigan Buckeyes."

Andy Buchsbaum is the regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office in Ann Arbor, Mich. Tom Bullock, of Lakewood, is the Pew Environment Group's Ohio representative.



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