It's Not Just The Air. Water is Warming Too.

Do you like to fish? To eat fish? Do you drink water? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions--or if you eat food--you won’t be happy about a new study of 235 lakes that, in total, contain more than half the world’s fresh water.

Lake temperatures are increasing even faster than those of oceans and the atmosphere, a team of scientists reported recently in the peer-reviewed journal Geographical Research Letters.

“Lakes are important because society depends on surface water for the vast majority of human uses—not just for drinking water, but manufacturing, energy production, irrigation and crops,” said study co-author Stephanie Hampton, a professor at Washington State University’s School of the Environment. “Protein from freshwater fish is especially important in the developing world.”

The study, based on decades of measurements, is the largest of its kind. It involved more than 60 scientists who used temperature records as well as satellite data to gauge changes over time, Warrick reported.

Even small variations in temperature can affect fish and other wildlife, the researchers found. “Most significant for many areas was the greater potential for harmful algae blooms, an explosive growth in populations of microscopic plants that can strip oxygen from the water and kill fish,” Warrick wrote. “Destructive algae blooms—such as the one in Lake Erie in 2014 that contaminated the water supply for Toledo and other Ohio cities—already are occurring more frequently worldwide.”

It’s clear that we need to take action to slow this warming of the world’s lakes. That means burning less carbon, and there is growing agreement that putting a price on carbon is the most direct and quickest way to achieve this goal. So far, though, Republicans in Congress have not climbed on board that bandwagon. One way to increase their enthusiasm is to make the carbon fee revenue-neutral and apply half the proceeds to reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent. The other half could be refunded to low- and middle-income households. We hope that business people and other constituents will urge their representatives on Capitol Hill to support this practical approach.