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Opinion: Climate Change Has Brought the 'Era of Extreme' to the Great Lakes

Severe flooding in these coastal areas will become the norm, but how to best address the environmental challenges is not entirely clear.
February 21, 2020, 7am PST | Camille Fink
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The last five years have been the wettest in Great Lakes history, and water levels have reached unprecedented highs, writes Peter Annin. "But some scientists believe a more complicated dynamic is at work: a warming climate that will continue to cause extreme fluctuations in weather and water levels, threatening havoc for lakeside homeowners, towns and cities, tourism and shipping."

Communities and residents in shoreline areas along the lakes need to prepare for a future of weather extremes, says Annin. But resiliency strategies have taken different forms. In Quebec, for example, officials are encouraging flooded property owners to take buyouts while New York officials are promoting the shoring up of land along Lake Ontario. 

The question of whether investing in infrastructure and strategies to fight back rising waters makes sense remains up in the air. "Armoring the shoreline is one form of adaptation. Property buyouts are another. History will show which strategy is most effective over time. What’s clear is that some people have built too close to the water’s edge," notes Annin. 

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Published on Thursday, February 13, 2020 in The New York Times
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