Cutting Carbon Is All That Matters

It was a solid one-two punch.

On Wednesday of this week a coalition of scientists and environmentalists released a report revealing that climate change threatens to inflame all that ails the Great Lakes ecosystem, dropping water levels lower, skewing fish and wildlife habitat, stirring up stronger storms that overflow outdated sewers and increase water pollution. The region's credible experts, in fact, agree the changes already are underway.

Then, on Thursday, the prestigious Brookings Institution issued a report revealing vital evidence about the geography of carbon emissions - a key accelerant of climate change - from the nation's 100 largest metro areas. Greater Great Lakes cities such as Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Toledo, Columbus, Madison, and Lansing log some of the highest emmissions per capita from residential and transportation sources. Rochester, Chicago, and Buffalo log some of the lowest in the nation, but can, must, and will do better.

So, thanks to Brookings, we know more about where the big sources of carbon pollution are located and we have good baseline evidence from which to gauge future progress. And thanks to the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes coalition we have a deeper understanding of what's at risk if we fail to act. And it's already clear we know a great deal about how to solve the problem - aggressively promote energy innovation, ramp up invest in modern public transportation, encourage urban revitalization and density, to name a few.

Clearly the charge of my generation - I'm 33 - is to confront the naysayers, push them to the sidelines, and put the solutions swiftly into play. Smart public policies and spending decisions can help the Great Lakes, I believe, translate these truly ominous threats into real opportunities. By reinvigorating and refocusing its innovative talent and industrial might, the mega region can position itself to help lead the globe out of this mess and turn a buck doing it. Frankly, what else matters if the knock-out blows of climate disruption threaten to plunge the world into chaos.