Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Great Lakes cities, resiliency to climate change discussed at U-M

City leaders throughout the Great Lakes region increasingly are concerned about how to adapt to climate change, and that was the topic of discussion at the Great Lakes Cities Climate Adaptation Integrated Assessment Scoping Meeting at U-M on Tuesday.


The event, attended by multiple Great Lakes-area government agencies and nonprofit organizations, was organized and hosted by the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute as part of an effort to gather input and ideas to help shape a comprehensive Integrated Assessment on this issue.

  From left, George Heartwell, mayor of Grand Rapids; Lana Pollack, a member of the International Joint Commission; and David Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, talk during a break at the Great Lakes Cities Climate Adaptation Integrated Assessment Scoping Meeting. (Photo by Lisa Pappas)

“Decision makers in cities play one of the most critical roles with respect to climate change impacts, since they are responsible for infrastructure and public services that cover millions of people,” says John Callewaert, director of integrated assessment for the Graham Institute.

“However, they’re often hindered by a lack of relevant information at the local level. This meeting gave us a better understanding of who is already engaged in climate adaptation in the region, what’s working or not working in their efforts, and what information would be most valuable to them moving forward.”

A key component of the meeting was the introduction of the Great Lakes Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment Center, a federally funded collaboration between U-M and Michigan State University focused on two overarching goals: to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the region in the face of a changing climate, and to improve the utility of scientific knowledge to decision making in this area.

Don Scavia, director of the Graham Institute and special counsel to the U-M president on sustainability, says these collaborations are exactly what the university is encouraging through the U-M Sustainability Initiative.

“This is an example of what we can do and will do to engage faculty members and stakeholders in working together to define and address complex sustainability problems in the areas of climate, fresh water and livable communities,” Scavia says.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, who participated in the meeting, says he looks forward to further collaboration on this front to improve his city’s ability to access valuable information and expertise.

“Grand Rapids is strong in climate mitigation, but we’re just beginning to understand the complexities of vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning,” he says. “I’m looking forward to being able to work with the university in expanding our knowledge-base and capabilities in this critical area.”

For more information about these climate research initiatives, go to