Lake Michigan faces effects of climate change and coastal erosion

There’s a race against time for people living along the lake to save their homes from massive shoreline erosions.
5:50 | 04/22/21

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Transcript for Lake Michigan faces effects of climate change and coastal erosion
Earth day and Earth day is all about celebrating the beauty and wonder of our planet but with the threat of climate change, it's also about addressing how we can make a difference to try and heal it. This morning, ginger is in Holland, Michigan, where there is a race against time to combat the devastating coastal erosion. Hey, ginger, we've been looking forward to talking to you about this all morning. Reporter: Good morning, Michael. Good morning, everyone. I'm standing on the edge of a 50-foot cliff. You know what this, this cliff did not look like this a year and a half ago. These homes holding on by a thread doing everything they can to make sure their houses don't fall into lake Michigan, because it's gone from its record low to record high in just seven years. This erosion a problem not just here, the violent storms all the scientists tell me a symptom of climate change. this is not the ocean. This is lake Michigan, one of the five great Lakes. The five massive Lakes straddle the u.s./canada border. In them more than 20% of all the fresh water on the planet. And in the past year, they've seen the highest water levels ever recorded. And now increasingly violent storms are pushing that high water against the shoreline, eroding it sending homes crashing into the water. You just hold your breath when you feel and hear the winds start to rattle the windows and you go here it comes. Reporter: In the last 18 months this gorgeous lake has been torturing the people that live here. The highest water levels in more than 100 years of records. It has families like the grays that live in this house behind me literally living on the edge. Concerned with each storm that their home will go down. It just collapsed. It keeps collapsing. Oh, absolutely. When we bought it as Jo said it was about a 45-degree angle. All vegetation, we had a deck canty levered out over the bluff which was beautiful and now it looks terrible. It looks, you know, looks like a garbage field down there. Reporter: The grays are thrown a hail Mary. They just want to save their home. They've installed a 550-foot steel wall with their neighbors. It's reinforced by Boulders and sand but the installation cost about $2200 per foot and this type of erosion protection is not covered by most homeowners insurance. Because it's water based it's more under a flood and called a natural event which is the reason you can no longer build properties within 500 feet of the shore. Reporter: The great Lakes have cycles, high and low water and happens every 30 years but in the last seven years lake Michigan and lake Huron have gone from their lowest water levels on record to the highest, ununprecedented swing that scientists say is the result of climate change. When you look at all the evidence, temperature, hydrology, hydrodynamics and that's a fact of greenhouse gas emissions and the human impacts we're having. Reporter: Steinman and so others calling for a global carbon diet. Fresh water is right here, right that we're looking at and it's gorgeous, it's beautiful's want to protect it and preserve Earth for us and future generations. Reporter: These are the beaches that I grew up on, this is the lake I fell in love with weather on and you can see right here, the wall that they put in, you know, for the folks who have the money to try to protect this is an effort, the lake levels are thankfully down but the erosion has not stopped. They will do everything they can to make sure that their generations long home. Some have five generations of families preserved. They also have another option, even more expensive and that is to actually move your home and this is what some structures are being done. You can see the video there as they take them back. I'm telling you, though, erosion not just on the great Lakes because it is cyclical but nothing like we've ever seen before. This rapid change costs the U.S. $500 million each year to deal with coastal erosion. Guys. I tell you in looking at those before and after images, just so eye opening, ginger. You said it. You're from Michigan. You spent a lot of time right there on the lake. So what does it mean for to you see the people you grew up with in the place you call home hit by this climate change? Reporter: Yeah, I mean this is a story that hits really close to home, my parents have a house about 40 miles north. That house is their dream retirement home. They saved. My mom worked two jobs my entire life so she could have that little house they could retire in and bought it three years ago and now just hold on every day and hope it's still there. That's the kind of reality, you know, this coast as you see it is not all vacation homes. People actually live here. They're actually being changed by this and so, yes, I know this is a part. I grew up here, I understand sand. I understand Lakes, they're powerful but if we can do any part in reducing carbon emissions and support companies that treat the planet right, that gives all of us hope especially on something as beautiful as Earth day. Love your message, ginger, thank you so much for bringing that to us and she's not done. Ginger has much more to share tonight on "It's not too late" Earth day special streaming at 8:00 P.M. On ABC newslive. Coming up, bindi has a baby.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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