Ice Cover in US Great Lakes ‘Has Fallen by Six Percent Every Decade’ So is Climate Change to Blame?

Last month the US Senate vote unanimously in favour of extending the US$2.7 billion Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for another five years. But how has the world’s biggest freshwater lake complex been affected by climate change and pollution in recent years?

Earlier this week President Donald Trump signed legislation renewing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which will increase annual funding from US$300 million to $475 million by 2026.

Funding for the GLRI, a bipartisan program first conceived during George W. Bush’s presidency, became an election issue in the region during the 2020 campaign.

​Trump was fighting to hold on to Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio – which he won in the 2016 election – and was keen to impress on his record in the Great Lakes region. 

In September, referring to the GLRI, he told supporters at a rally in Freeland, Michigan: “It’s all done. That deal is all done.”

“I also authorised millions of dollars to save Michigan’s Soo Locks. Forget all the problems they had,” he added, a reference to construction of a new US$922 million lock allowing bigger ships to pass between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  

The Great Lakes – Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario – is the largest freshwater ecosystem on Earth and plays a vital role in the environmental and economic life of both the United States and Canada.

​Iron ore and coal is transported across them to supply steel mills and large quantities of manufactured goods…

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