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Environment Ohio Warns State Economy Vulnerable to Climate Change

COLUMBUS, Ohio, December 18, 2008 (ENS) – Global warming could potentially damage Ohio economic sectors now worth $126.9 billion that provide 1.9 million jobs, according to a new report issued today by the environmental advocacy group Environment Ohio.

Entitled “What’s at Stake: How Global Warming Threatens the Buckeye State,” the report details the environmental and economic harms that may result from Ohio’s changing climate.

“It’s not just about the polar bears and Arctic ice-caps anymore,” said Amy Gomberg, Environment Ohio’s program director. “Climate change poses threats to Ohio’s environment that could have a negative impact on our economy, as well.”

“Not only could climate change lower the water level in Lake Erie, damaging Ohio’s fishing, shipping and tourism industries, but it also could harm Ohio’s agriculture and timber industries,” she warned

Due to the fact that 86 percent of Ohio’s electricity is generated by burning coal, Ohio is now the fourth largest contributor of carbon dioxide pollution in the country, said Gomberg. Only 23 countries spew more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the state of Ohio.


The coal-fired Miami Fort plant in North Bend,
Ohio (Photo by Three Rivers Local School District)

Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas concentrating in the atmosphere, trapping the Sun’s rays close to the planet.

If carbon emissions continue to rise at current rates, environmental problems that could impact Ohio’s economy may develop, the report warns.

“As part of any strategy to prudently and responsibly manage the risks of climate change, Ohio will have no choice but to limit its greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. Andrew Keeler, an economist with Ohio State University’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs.

“Congress and the new administration need to act as soon as possible to incorporate a price for greenhouse gas emissions into our market economy to address this problem efficiently,” said Keeler.

“Ohio should be forward-looking in its approach to energy conservation and generation in order to prepare for a strong and prosperous future. In particular, our state should take advantage of and contribute to the parts of a likely economic stimulus plan that spur investments in clean energy and green infrastructure,” he said.

The report breaks down the potential damage to Ohio’s industry by sector.

The $2.9 billion hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing industry with its 48,000 jobs could lose suffer climate damage, the report finds.

Lake Erie’s $16 billion commercial shipping, commercial and recreational fishing, and tourism industries and their 146,800 jobs are threatened.

The timber industry has almost as much at stake – $15 billion and 119,000 jobs.

But it is the state’s $93 billion agriculture industry and its 1.6 million jobs that has the most to lose to the effects of climate change.

“Forty years ago the Cuyahoga River caught on fire and Lake Erie was called America’s Dead Sea. Sportsmen fought for clean water laws, and with cleaner water, the fish came back. Since then recreational opportunities, tourism, and the fishing industry have thrived,” said Jim Doss, president of the Ohio Bass Federation. “Now, climate change threatens Ohio’s chief waterways and in turn, it threatens our economy and the recreational opportunities that depend on them, yet again.”

The report shows that reduced ice cover on Lake Erie during the winter, and increased water temperatures year round will lead to greater water evaporation from Lake Erie and a decrease in its overall water levels.

Some studies show that the Lake’s water level could fall by between three and 6.5 feet over the next 70 years, shifting the shoreline up to several miles in shallow areas of the lake, particularly in Sandusky and Maumee bays.

This could have a devastating impact on the Ohio’s shipping industry because every inch that Lake Erie drops commercial ships must leave behind 270 tons of cargo. A two percent decline in shipping activity could cost the economy over $1 billion, the report estimates.

Rapid changes from global warming would hurt forest ecosystems, potentially cutting forest cover and the industry that relies on it by 50 percent. Additionally, these changes may force Ohio’s state tree, the Ohio Buckeye, to shift its range northward to areas including Michigan.

“For wildlife fans in Ohio, global warming presents two kinds of news – bad and worse,” warned Jerry Tinianow, executive director of Audubon Ohio.

“The bad news is that many of the species we love to observe, like spring warblers and fall waterfowl, will be in short supply or may disappear entirely. The worse news is that species we don’t like, primarily insects and other disease-bearing vectors, may expand their ranges into Ohio, bringing diseases with them that were previously almost unheard of in Ohio,”

Environment Ohio called on President-elect Barack Obama, the new Congress, and specifically Congresswoman-elect Mary Jo Kilroy to enact a green economic recovery plan that makes critical investments in clean energy and green infrastructure to help rebuild the American economy and protect our environment.

The group advocates funding for clean energy projects that put Ohioans back to work making public buildings more efficient and putting solar panels on their roofs, weatherizing homes, training more than 100,000 new workers to install clean energy systems, and increasing public transportation capacity by 10 percent a year.

Additionally, Environment Ohio called on Congress to enact an economy wide cap on carbon emissions that is reduced by at least 20 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050.

Data on which the report is based was drawn from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Climatic Data Center, the World Meteorological Organization, the U.S. Department of Energy, Ohio Sea Grant, and NASA scientists.

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