The First Election at the End of the World

Climate Change Survival Is on the Ballot in 2020 Along With Donald Trump

The new normal is here, in Traverse City, Michigan, as it is in thousands of other places, large and small, while the climate crisis poses the chilling existential question: Are the political system and institutions of the United States strong enough to confront it?

There is no beach where there once was a beach. There is a strip of sand that can hardly be called a beach, and on a cool afternoon at the beginning of September, seven kids were splashing through the waters at the edge of Grand Traverse Bay in that part of Lake Michigan that cuts into the lower half of the state of Michigan, providing a pinkie finger to the state’s mitten configuration. Not far from where there once was a beach, you can see a dock submerged just below the surface. The water is so clear you can count the boards. This is where Lake Michigan had come to rest at the end of the summer of 2019.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, water levels in the Great Lakes hit record highs in 2019, and the combined levels of Lakes Michigan and Huron was thirty inches higher than its customary average in August. This is a consequence of heavier than usual rainfall, and then a heavier than usual snowfall, resulting in a heavier than usual snowmelt that combined with another unusually rainy spring. The lakes rose because of a combination of exacerbated weather events…

. . . Since 2014 the issue has been too much water, not too little. High water poses just as many challenges for the region, including shoreline erosion, property damage, displacement of families and delays in planting spring crops. . . . As researchers specializing in hydrology and climate science, we believe rapid transitions between extreme high and low water levels in the Great Lakes represent the “new normal.” Our view is based on interactions between global climate variability and the components of the regional hydrological cycle. Increasing precipitation, the threat of recurring periods of high evaporation, and a combination of both routine and unusual climate events—such as extreme cold air outbursts—are putting the region in uncharted territory.

Read more: Climate Change Survival Is on the Ballot in 2020 Along With Donald Trump

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