Keeping our lakes clean can help slow climate change

Weather Blog

Photo: Alex Hoder/KXAN

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Clean water obviously has its benefits: from providing drinking water, to allowing swimming and fishing recreation and water sport activities. Early studies showed that the cost that it took to preserve and maintain the quality of bodies of water were far more costly than the benefits.

However, new studies analyzed by economists say that maintaining clean water can save us trillions of dollars globally because of its positive impacts on slowing down global warming.

The research, led by University of Minnesota Sea Grant Director John A. Downing finds that keeping our local lakes clean not only benefit the local community, but has far reaching global positive impacts as well.

Algae blooms that occur on many lakes yearly, not only prevent swimming recreation but they can kill entire fish populations. This in return has dire implications for local tourism and the fishing industry that can add up to the millions.

So how is the impact global?

Well these algae blooms also exude a lot of methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It has 21 times the capability to trap heat in the atmosphere.

Keeping our lakes clean and free of these algae blooms could reduce methane release and therefore help slow its impacts on warming the planet. The money it takes to maintain lakes free of algae blooms is far cheaper than the impacts of the added methane into our atmosphere. Climate change of course is impacting health-care costs, infrastructure is being devastated by larger storms. Beach front real-estate is being wiped out or losing significant value with rising sea levels. The rising costs for our farmers who constantly struggle to maintain their crops during a far more chaotic weather pattern. And so much more.

The study was actually able to quantify the global damages caused by increased methane from algae blooms and then compare it to if we avoided these damages hypothetically through modeling from 2015 to 2050. It could be as much as $24 trillion saved from resulting global damages if we reduced methane emissions from lakes by as much as 100%.

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