If you appreciate our in-depth reporting and you can help us pay for it, please become a recurring donor to Planet Detroit.

*You can always find past Michigan Climate News stories and subscribe to new ones on Bulletin, and you can keep up with us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! Got an idea for a Michigan climate story? Pitch us here.*


Bugging out: Warm temperatures persisted in Michigan for much of October, leading to a longer season for mosquitos and ticks and frustrating anglers who waited for the fall salmon run that comes with cooler weather. Warmer water in the Great Lakes contributed to the higher temps, which were 10 to 15 degrees above long-term averages for Michigan. Richard Rood, a University of Michigan professor and co-principal investigator at the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments, says we’re at the beginning of a dramatic warming trend and health officials and first responders will need to prepare for more insect-borne disease and heat-related emergencies. Recent data from emergency rooms back this up, with ER’s across the midwest seeing 64 visits for tick bites during the week of October 11. Between 2017 and 2019 the weekly average was 36 for this time of year. (Bridge, Michigan Radio)

Competition, please: Following last month's revelation that Michigan was not even a contender for Ford Motor Company's $11.4 billion investment in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing because of the state's lack of affordable, reliable electricity, state Sen. Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville) introduced a bill that would allow manufacturers with high electricity needs to purchase electricity directly from a competitor to DTE Energy and Consumers. "I fear that Ford won't be the last company to choose another state with lower electric rates for economic development over Michigan," said Rod Williamson of the group ABATE which advocates for lower energy costs for Michigan businesses. Consumers and DTE aren't fans of the new bill. Consumers released a statement saying the bill "is the wrong path" and "deregulates Michigan’s energy supply, jeopardizes the state’s ability to ensure reliable electric service, and disrupts our transition to a clean energy future. And DTE stated, "This legislation is unnecessary and moves Michigan closer to deregulation." (Detroit News, Michigan Radio)

Hot water: Lake Superior is one of the fastest-warming lakes in the world and Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay is losing its winter ice cover 16 days earlier than it did a century ago, according to research from York University. "Many of our lakes may be approaching a tipping point to ice-free conditions which will have vast cultural and ecological implications," said Sapna Sharma, associate professor in York University’s Faculty of Science, who led the study. Last month, a toxic algal bloom forced a beach to close in Superior, Wisconsin, the first time such toxins have been detected in the lake. “The data have convinced me that the changing climate system has pushed Lake Superior into a new state, one where we get these blue-green blooms,” said Robert Sterner, director of the Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minnesota Duluth. “One of the things that’s driving our work is if, in fact, we’re at the beginning of something that’s getting worse.” (Science Daily, Detroit News)

Climate action: Around 150 University of Michigan students walked out of class on October 22nd to call for climate action at various levels of government and at the university itself. Among other demands, students want U of M to become carbon neutral by 2030, retrofit buildings, install solar panels, and create an online dashboard to track progress. “We need meaningful action from the university and we need it now,” said U of M sophomore Lexi Crilley. “The climate cannot wait. As members of the generation most severely impacted by the climate crisis–we’re sick and tired of the stagnation.” Another protest was held in Grand Rapids on Saturday. The Grand Rapids Climate Coalition–which included representatives of faith groups, Indigenous communities and climate groups–is pushing the city to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and to send investments to frontline communities that are being hit hardest by the climate crisis. (MLive, WZZM13)

Public info: Ann Arbor will require large buildings to report on energy and water use as part of its A2Zero to achieve “net-zero” carbon emissions. Under the new law, buildings over 20,000 square feet must disclose this data to the city, which will then make it publicly available. The law is intended to give tenants more information to inform their rental choices. (MLive)

Energy audits: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared October “weatherization month” and the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is sending out auditors to help families conserve energy and improve indoor air quality. Improvements can include adding insulation, sealing windows, and installing more efficient lighting and water systems. Those looking to get help can contact their local action agency for more information. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that home heating and cooling accounts for 43 percent of the country’s energy usage and other research has found home energy produces 20 percent of greenhouse emissions nationwide. Globally, energy prices are skyrocketing, but Michigan officials say this is unlikely to affect home heating costs in the state because utilities pre-purchased large amounts of gas and have ample gas storage capacity. (MLive, Reuters, WXYZ)


Goin’ nuclear: Indiana’s legislature created the 21st Century Energy Task Force in 2019 to help determine the future of the state’s electricity grid, and so far they seem to be focusing a lot on small modular reactors (SMRs), unproven nuclear power plants that could potentially replace coal facilities. “Not only is all this R&D money being sunk into SMRs hurting renewables, it gives them an excuse to not make investments today they should be making,” said Kerwin Wilson, executive director of the environmental and consumer advocacy organization Citizens Action Coalition. “We have clean, available, cheap, off-the-shelf technology today with solar and wind and demand response — that’s where our investments today should be going.” Proponents of SMRs say they complement renewable energy, offering variable levels of power generation to add reliability to the grid. However, the plants produce radioactive waste that needs to be stored basically forever. (Midwest Energy News, Forbes)

Acronym overload: 120 heads of state, along with representatives from nongovernmental organizations and business leaders, will soon be meeting in Glasgow for the 26th Congress of Parties or COP26 — an outgrowth of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It’s possible that this meeting will produce even more acronyms, but will it do anything about the climate crisis? Under the Paris Agreement, countries are required to develop “nationally determined contributions” (or, you know, NDCs), which show how they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuel producers like Russia and Australia have signaled an unwillingness to reduce emissions, and countries like China and India have so far declined to submit their NDCs. In order to keep global heating under 1.5 C, the world will need to reach “net-zero” emissions by 2050. A UNFFCC report has set a 45 percent emissions reduction by 2030 as an interim target. An “outcome text” will be produced at the end of the conference that should indicate if any progress has been made on strengthening countries’ NDCs or other goals. (The Conversation)


What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at nina@planetdetroit.org. NOTE: Please don't reply to this email, it will go into a digital netherworld, never to be seen again. We hope that changes soon!

Photo of Lake Superior, courtesy Getty Images.


SIGN UP for Planet Detroit's free weekly email newsletter

Our reporting 

runs deep.

Get our weekly free local enviro + health newsletter in your inbox with Planet Detroit.

Scroll to Top