Social and Biological Impacts of Rising Seas and Reduced Lake Levels

An evening at the Shedd Aquarium with some of the world's experts on the effect of changing water levels on Chicago and the globe

Global warming is causing sea levels to rise even faster than previously predicted. At the same time, levels of Lake Michigan are reaching record lows due to increased evaporation related to warmer temperatures, drought, and human water consumption.  These changes call for mitigation and adaptation to ensure the sustainability of coastal settlements and ecosystems.

An informative evening with some of the world’s experts on these topics to understand how changing water levels will affect Chicago and the globe.

Rising seas and surging storms: Analysis of a present and growing threat to America’s coasts
Ben Strauss, COO and Director of the Program on Sea Level Rise, Climate Central
Warming-driven sea level rise, measured in inches, has already doubled the chance of extreme coastal flooding at sites around the U.S. Accelerating rise, soon to be measured in feet, will amplify risks much further, and quickly in places. This talk shared the latest global and local projections, and give a tour of what they could mean all around the nation.

Of Storms and Surges: Sea Level Rise and Population Displacement and Resettlement
Anthony Oliver-Smith, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida
The talk explored the potential for significant population displacement resulting from sea level rise driven by global climate change. However, the issues associated with specific conditions of local vulnerability make precise predictions challenging. Moreover, population resettlement brings with it significant risks of its own and presents problematic scenarios of reducing exposure, but increasing impoverishment and vulnerability.

Great Lakes Lows: Causes, Impacts, and Future Projections for Lake Levels
Phil Willink, Senior Research Biologist, Shedd Aquarium
The people and wildlife of the Great Lakes region are bound inextricably by our dependence on the area’s aquatic ecosystems. In 2012, Lake Michigan approached near-historic low levels. What causes lake level fluctuations, and what biological and economic impacts might we anticipate in the future?

Introduction by Tara Massad, Henry Chandler Cowles Lecturer, Environmental Studies Program, University of Chicago

Cosponsored by the Center for International Studies, the Program on the Global Environment, and the Shedd Aquarium.

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© 2015 Center for International Studies