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Climate change meets the grid: DTE Energy customer Layla Elabed was one of 2.4 million Michiganders who lost power this year as powerful storms associated took down power lines. “I just can’t believe we were out of power for seven days. I don’t know how that happens in 2021,” she said. “I think 100 percent we cannot deny the effect that climate change is having on our communities and the stability of our lives.” Storms are increasingly taking down trees and knocking out power in Michigan, straining the resources of residents who may not be able to replace groceries from their refrigerator or afford a hotel stay. The American Society of Civil Engineers has given Michigan’s overall infrastructure–which includes things like roads, bridges and the power grid–a grade of D+, with only Puerto Rico receiving a worse grade. How might the state turn things around? DTE says it’s investing heavily in tree trimming and grid modernization, but critics say more investment is needed in distributed renewable energy and energy efficiency. (MLive)

Additionality: The Henry Ford Health System announced it will move to purchase all of its energy from renewable sources by 2029, starting with 10% in 2023. DTE Energy will supply energy to the hospital system as part of its MIGreenPower program. “By investing in clean, renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure, we aim to address health disparities and the growing impacts of climate change regionwide, especially in our historically marginalized communities,” said Bob Riney, Henry Ford Health System’s President of Healthcare Operations and Chief Operations Officer. Will Kenworthy, Midwest regulatory director for Vote Solar, told Planet Detroit that although DTE’s program charges a premium, it does produce “additionality” i.e. new renewable energy is created as more customers sign up. (WXYZ)zero-carbon

Getting to zero: There’s no shortage of “goals” for achieving “net-zero” emissions by 2050 in the world. This includes Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's MI Healthy Plan that looks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and 28 percent reduction of emissions over 1990 levels by 2025. Now, a group of scientists and environmentalists have signed a letter outlining steps that Michigan can take to meet its climate goals. Some of these include:

  • Electrifying buildings, transportation and industry and powering the grid with renewable energy.
  • Adopting a 100% zero carbon energy standard by 2035 that avoids “false solutions” like nuclear energy, carbon offsets, carbon capture and biogas.
  • Empowering people to produce their own renewable energy, with an emphasis on low-income and environmental justice communities. (Channel 4)

Historic shanties: Michigan’s historic shanties are in danger. In Leland’s Fishtown–where ramshackle buildings exert a magnetic pull on tourists–higher levels on Lake Michigan are pushing into the Leland River and the river itself is overflowing its banks, forcing the Fishtown Preservation Society to raise the buildings with new foundations or pilings. This includes Carlson’s Fishery, which will be forced to close for as long as six months. Lauren Fry, a Physical Scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, says climate change is driving these changes because warmer air carries more moisture, leading to heavy precipitation that raises lake and river levels. (PBS)

In bad decline: The monarch butterfly population is twenty percent of what it was in the early 1990s. The widespread use of Roundup–or glyphosate–has helped drive this decline, wiping out the milkweed plants on farms that monarchs need for food and reproduction. But climate change is also contributing to population loss by producing volatile weather that threatens the butterfly’s eggs, which need near-average temperatures to develop. Although individuals have been planting milkweed on their own properties to help monarchs, biologists are encouraging people to support the conservation of larger natural areas that could offer better protection for the butterflies. (Michigan Radio)

Tornadoes and climate: Another round of storms and at least one tornado in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest has raised questions about how the climate crisis may be influencing extreme weather. Michael Tippett, an associate professor of applied physics and mathematics at Columbia University who studies extreme weather, says tornadoes are the most difficult extreme weather event to connect to climate change. Tornadoes require moist, warm air close to the ground, cooler air higher up and wind shear, or a change in wind speed or direction. Some of these factors seem to be increasing with the climate crisis, but not others. Still, Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan, says there is a connection. “Warmer Gulf of Mexico waters mean more warmth and moisture for air masses moving north over land, where they collide with cold winter air moving southward, often setting up the conditions needed for severe thunderstorms and destructive tornadoes,” he says. Scientists also seem to be in agreement that the area where tornadoes commonly occur is shifting eastward, which is bad news for Michigan. (NY Times, NPR)


Were last week's southern tornadoes caused by climate change?

This guy: Coal brokerage-beneficiary Senator Joe Manchin III announced Sunday that he couldn’t support his party’s $2.2 trillion Build Back Better bill, which includes roughly $555 million for climate action. Manchin cited budget concerns for opposing the bill and said its clean energy and climate provisions “risk the reliability of our electric grid and increase our dependence on foreign supply chains.” A number of legislators and environmentalists have said the legislation is crucial for lowering emissions and addressing the climate crisis. In a Senate split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, Manchin’s support is likely essential for passing the BBB legislation. However, Manchin has reversed course on legislation before and some hope that a bill more tailored to the Maserati-owner’s concerns could pass. (Intercept, NY Times, Slate, Vice)


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.


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