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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 12/14/2008

Warming issue is eclipsed once again

If last week had been anything close to normal, America's great muckraking newspapers - what few of them we have left - would have led their front pages with stories about how 189 countries had delegates in Poland for the biggest event devoted to Earth's most pressing environmental issue: climate change.

Alas, these are not normal times.

The Great Lakes region - already one of the most affected by climate change - figured prominently in the headlines. But for the wrong reasons.

The week began with American auto execs figuratively on their knees, willing to scrape by this Christmas with a $15 billion gift from taxpayers instead of the $34 billion bailout they wanted.

The Scrooge element in Congress nixed that deal Thursday night after the UAW balked over pay cuts, leaving the Big 3 hoping for a Christmas Day miracle.

Then, another piece of Great Lakes-centric news emerged.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich got busted by the FBI on corruption charges of the highest level, trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacated seat in the U.S. Senate and make money from other political favors. The governor also was accused of trying to get part of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board fired.

Grinch. Repeat after me: "You're a Mean One, Mr. Blagojevich." (Has a nice ring to it, but what rhymes with Blagojevich?)

Anyway, that brings us to Mr. Obama, the Great Lakes region's first president-elect in decades.

Reading about him and Veep-to-be Joe Biden sitting down in Chicago on Tuesday to wax poetic about climate change with former Vice President Al Gore was more than just coincidental.

The 12-day United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, was winding down. The event started Dec. 1 and ended Friday.

World leaders were left wondering how committed Mr. Obama will be to reducing greenhouse gases once he takes office next month. Hence the meeting with Mr. Gore.

"All three of us are in agreement that the time for delay is over, the time for denial is over," Mr. Obama said. "This is a matter of urgency and of national security, and it has to be dealt with in a serious way."

How serious can you get when the brick and mortar holding up the world's financial industry is tumbling down?

That's a toughie. But the need for climate legislation is one reason liberal California Congressman Henry Waxman uprooted fellow Democrat John Dingell from the seat Mr. Dingell had held as chairman of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce since 1981.

Climate legislation will be huge for the Great Lakes region and Toledo in particular, given that western Lake Erie is the warmest, shallowest, and most biologically productive (and fickle) part of the lakes.

Slowing down the rate of warming would be a long-term investment for the region. It would be too costly trying to make up for the declines in water level through more dredging or make up for the losses in tourism and recreation if the fishing industry is fouled up.

On Thursday, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition weighed in with a request to have the nation get $10.6 billion more for sewage improvements as part of an economic recovery package that Mr. Obama is expected to sign after taking office. The coalition wants $3.7 billion of that - including $562 million for Ohio and $429 million for Michigan - for Great Lakes states, where sewage improvements are the region's greatest infrastructure need.

That package is expected to create thousands of jobs and could help communities deal with the effects of climate change, too, given the likelihood of more frequent and turbulent storms.



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