Pilot project on climate a good start to addressing issue

Windy days come and go, but the one that hit the Marquette region Oct. 24 was a doozy.

The windstorm damaged park areas, took down trees and power lines and caused power outages. Most tragically, two people from Iron River presumably drowned after being swept into Lake Superior off Presque Isle. Their bodies still have not been found.

That’s not surprising; the storm generated record-setting 28.8-foot wave heights and hurricane-force gusts.

Last Friday at Jamrich Hall on the campus of Northern Michigan University, the Northern Climate Network’s Climate@Noon seminar focused on the Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation Program’s pilot project in Marquette County.

One of the changes that has been documented in the area include the increased frequency and intensity of severe storms. Also, temperatures are rising, especially in winter, which results in a rise in ice and freezing rain, and spring coming earlier.

Perhaps some people welcome warmer winter weather, but who wants to drive in freezing rain? That makes traveling in a vehicle, or even just walking, much more treacherous.

Also noted at the seminar was the fact extreme weather events make for more flooding, storms and wildfires, which in turn can damage infrastructure, properties and contaminate water source.

The pilot project will look at many factors, with the goal of producing a rural climate adaptation guidebook that includes how to mitigate problems such as wildfires near property, for instance. Do people build more metal roofs? Do they plant trees and shrubs farther away from their homes?

Regions are unique among each other when it comes to climate change, so it stands to reason the adaptations are unique as well. Consider that much of Marquette County is near Lake Superior. The gales of November could turn into the gales of October — and even other months.

The county pilot program is a collaboration between various agencies, including the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; Michigan State University Extension-School of Planning, Design and Construction; the Marquette County Health Department; and the Michigan Climate Adaptation Task Force.

Climate change affects people in many ways: human health, the ecosystem, the lake, etc. They are interrelated, with many factors influencing each other.

This is a case where proactivity should reign supreme. Waiting too long to address the issue could mean problems later on that can’t easily be remedied.

Even on a county level.

That’s why it’s important to take action now. Even simple steps such as testing a septic tank or bicycling to work can make a difference, especially if everyone takes part.

The Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation Program’s pilot project in Marquette County is a good start.

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