On October 8th, 2019 local public health officials, infectious disease specialists, university researchers, and environmental organizations, including the Ecology Center, attended a roundtable discussion led by Senator Stabenow (D-MI). Stabenow released her report, “The Climate Crisis and Michigan”, on climate change and the public health implications faced by Michigan. Stabenow’s report also addressed mitigation strategies and solutions.
In order to effectively combat the climate crisis, we must drastically reduce our greenhouse gase emissions within the next ten years. These emissions largely originate from transportation, electric generation, commercial/residential buildings, and agriculture. Michigan faces several direct impacts of climate change including: changes in the economy, public health, and way of life as the average air temperatures and temperature of the Great Lakes continues to rise.
Specifically in the Great Lakes, rapid and extreme fluctuations in lake levels due to intense climate phenomena. Intense storms flood the lakes while higher summer temperatures increase evaporation, resulting in variable lake levels. Coastal communities are now more vulnerable to erosion and flooding. Warming waters serve to displace native fish and wildlife, which cause unprecedented toxic algal blooms.
The Ecology Center has previously collaborated in rolling out NRDC's Michigan specific climate and health report. This report acknowledges several solutions to help curb carbon pollution and address health impacts resulting from climate change. Stabenow’s report further addresses this issue and explains how the effects of climate change ae increase health risks to the people of Michigan. Warmer temperatures encourage the spread of vector-borne disease through mosquitoes and ticks. The detriments to public health can be seen in more smog triggering respiratory problems in children and adults. Also, as temperatures rise and seasons shift, plants are able to produce more pollen, which results in the length of the allergy season increasing.
Leveraging Michigan’s current ranking as first in the Midwest for clean energy jobs, Stabenow proposes ways Michigan can mitigate the impacts of climate change while creating new jobs and saving money. Recognizing the large scale impact of emissions from the transportation sector, she sees great opportunities in Michigan for the auto industry through transition from internal combustion vehicles to electric vehicles. This transition will result in even lower emissions as the electric grid increases its generation from renewable sources. With Michigan’s current position leading in jobs within the advanced transportation sector, workers and Michigan universities alike are accelerating the efforts for the adoption of cleaner, greener vehicles.
State agencies, local businesses, and policymakers have set goals in renewable energy. Current state law requires energy utilities in Michigan to “generate at least 12.5% of electricity sales with renewable energy by 2019 and 2020 and 15% by 2021”. At the local level, some environmentally dedicated cities have even set goals to rely 100% upon renewable energy generation!
Michigan’s workforce is also becoming more environmentally conscious, with more than 300 various jobs in three major sectors: clean energy production, energy efficiency, and environmental management. Workforce training ensures that with a new clean energy-based economy, Michigan’s workforce is benefitting with good pay and quality benefits.
The agricultural industry is also adapting. Farmers are implementing more energy efficient and clean energy practices with solar panels, small-scale wind turbines, and improved excess fertilizer management. Michigan’s farmers, workforce, and businesses are all taking steps to take action against climate change. Multiple stakeholders are adapting to the drastic changes and are increasingly concerned with the effects it will have on the state of Michigan.
With climate change directly affecting the people of Michigan, the Ecology Center’s attendance in this discussion represents the concerns of the community. The Ecology Center works to address the movement around climate change and to collaboratively develop solutions for healthy people, and a healthy planet.
Published on November 13, 2019