Imperiled: Indigenous maple-syruping in northern Michigan, ice fishing in Ohio, pond hockey in Minnesota

CO2 2022/2021 419.63 ppm / 416.51 ppm


Painfully clear: Climate experts are weighing in on the most recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found that the climate crisis is already significantly disrupting economies and ecosystems, a trend that will grow much worse if action isn’t taken. “It makes it painfully clear that we must act immediately to reduce carbon emissions and protect ecosystems in Michigan. We are out of time. We need bold action from the state and local governments,” said climatologist Daniel Brown, watershed planner for the Huron River Watershed Council. Brown said that Michigan needs to follow the report’s recommendations and protect a large number of natural areas, which would help sequester carbon and manage rainfall and flooding. In Michigan, this last issue is likely to be the most important in the immediate future. “We have to build more capacity into the way we drain water off of the landscape,” said State Climatologist Jeffrey Andresen. “And that comes at a cost.” And yet the costs borne by Michigan and other northern places may seem small compared to countries in the Global South that did relatively little to cause the climate crisis, but could see the most damage from droughts, heatwaves and storms in what some refer to as “climate apartheid”. (MLive, Bridge, BBC)

Ukraine and energy: Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union is set to announce a proposal to “accelerate the clean energy transition and reduce permanently our dependence on imports of natural gas,” according to the New York Times. Russia currently supplies 40% of the gas used by European countries for heat and electricity. Meanwhile, in the United States, the oil and gas lobby offers a different message, using the war in Ukraine to push for more drilling. And in Michigan, an oil and gas group warns that a shut down of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac would cause gas and diesel prices to increase between 9.47% and 11.66%. This report from the Consumer Energy Alliance pushes back against a recent study from Environmental Defense Canada that said the closure of Line 5 would have little impact on fuel prices. Sean McBrearty, from the environmental group Clean Water Action, questioned the oil industry report, saying a Line 5 shutdown wouldn’t significantly affect refineries in Detroit and Toledo and that Enbridge’s Line 6B had plenty of capacity to move oil across the state. (NY Times, MI Radio, Bridge)

A terrible nexus: One-third of the country’s hazardous chemical facilities are at risk from climate-related disasters like floods, storms, and wildfires, according to research from the Government Accountability Office. Facilities in the Midwest and Great Lakes made up 40% of the more than 10,000 facilities the agency looked at. The report notes that low-income, Black and Indigenous people are more likely to live near these facilities and these populations would be at greatest risk from exposure to pollutants in the event of a disaster. "It's a terrible nexus of burden and vulnerability," says Ana Baptista, an environmental policy professor at the New School. "You have communities that are facing a whole host of burdens in terms of pollution exposure, and they may also have less means to evacuate in an emergency." (NPR)

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Sovereign waters: Pollution, invasive species, and climate change are affecting fisheries that Indigenous communities around Lake Superior, called Gitchigumi in Anishinaabemowin, depend on as a source of food and income. Fisherman Phillip Solomon remembers a time when he could drive his car across the ice to Pie Island from the Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay, Ontario to go ice-fishing. Now he sometimes finds himself fishing by boat in the middle of the winter. The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Michigan is trying to better steward the lake by obtaining “Treatment as Sovereign” status from the Environmental Protection Agency, allowing it to do its own enforcement of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. The community will begin establishing surface water quality standards and administer programs for re-establishing native plants and fisheries, among other initiatives. (Narwhal)

End of the season: Climate change is disrupting other traditions throughout the Midwest as well, with the Upper Midwest experiencing the most warming of any area of the country, especially in winter. This warming endangers events like Tip-Up Town USA in Houghton Lake, Michigan, the country’s largest winter festival. The event attracts around 30,000 people for activities like snowmobiling and ice fishing contests. But this year the ice on Houghton Lake wasn’t thick enough to safely accommodate the event, jeopardizing a major money-maker for the town’s tourism-based economy. Warming winters are also imperiling Indigenous maple-syruping in northern Michigan, ice fishing in Ohio, and pond hockey in Minnesota, traditions that people have used to define themselves for generations. “When you have these long winters, it gives you time for reflection,” said Kevin Kling, a Minnesota playwright. “It’s a wonderful time of year, like the way the snow muffles the sound. There’s a reason it’s called a crisp night, because it feels like you’re right on the edge of shattering. It’s this most amazing feeling.” (Grist)

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