Real-world problems like global climate change are complex. Solving problems are as much about society, economics, and culture as they are about science.
Climate change is an especially difficult issue because its causes are global, its consequences are often long term and uncertain, and solutions expensive, and not the same for everyone. When society faces complex problems many types of discussions occur. The more controversial the topic, the more likely the discussion seems to take a debate-like form, with lots of talking and little listening—or people only listening to others who think like they do. If the nature of the discussion can be changed, better, more informed decisions may result.
This activity provides a format to increase listening, learning, and mutual discovery through dialogue and conversation. No one strategy, agreement, or solution may evolve. The primary goal is to help students become better informed on the scope of the issue as a first step in figuring out how to address the problem.
The Community Conversation Lesson will require work on the part of the teacher to:
• Identify a climate change related issue of particular importance to the community. See Some Effects of Climate Change in Michigan (teacher resource)
• Prepare a policy option (or several options) which might be adopted by a town council, professional group, or coalition of citizens.
• Select or modify the dialogue cards so that the selected role cards all have a potential interest in the problem, or might be impacted by potential solutions.
As a starting place for developing the scenario, you might focus on one or more of the following probable consequences of climate change in Michigan. It is important to note that any of these changes will have different impacts in different parts of the state. For example, more and hotter summer days may be perceived differently in Houghton than in Holland.
More and Hotter Summer Days
Michigan is expected to have more days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat waves already kill more people in the U.S. each year than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and lightning combined. Increased air conditioning is expensive both in terms of money and energy. On the other hand, a hotter, longer summer may benefit some businesses.
Increased Storms and Flooding
Increased rainfall can lead to more flooding, delays in planting spring crops, and a declining water quality in rivers, streams, and storage reservoirs. Adapting to the potential for increased flooding may require changes in flood control. This can provide new jobs, but it also requires some tax money.
With a warmer climate, droughts could become more frequent, severe, and longer-lasting. This can affect agriculture across the state, with impacts on the need for irrigation and increased groundwater and lake withdrawals.
Decreased Water Levels
Water levels in the Great Lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands may decline in the summer and winter. The greatest declines are expected for Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Declining water levels would affect shipping, sport fishing, and recreational boating. It can also have an impact on construction near what is now the waterfront.
Less Ice and Snow Cover
Rising temperatures is causing less ice cover during winter months. Declines in ice cover on the Great Lakes and inland lakes are expected to continue. Less ice cover may mean that more winter precipitation may be in the form of rain, not snow. This can have an impact on snow related tourism activities, as well as the cost of snow removal.
More Winter Thaws/Late Frosts
With less ice cover, the lake may have less effect in delaying the budding of fruit trees. If that happens, the combination of an early winter thaw followed by a late frost may destroy fruit crops more frequently.