A northern Michigan tornado, a deadly spring Chicago heatwave & fixing MI's grid

CO2 2022/2021 : 421.74 ppm / 420.65 ppm

Dear Michigan Climate News readers,

Climate advocacy groups are aiming to get the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Michigan utilities for creating obstacles to solar power. A rare tornado hit northern Michigan — could it become more common? And a heatwave in Chicago killed three women in senior housing last week.

That and more headlines as we roll into the last day of May set to hit the 90s. Hit reply to tell us how you're staying cool.

Have a great week!

— Nina Ignaczak, Editor of Michigan Climate News

p.s. Let us know what you want to see in this newsletter by taking our reader survey!


Tornado warning: The tornado that recently hit Gaylord, killing two people and injuring 44 others, was an unusual event for Michigan. Experts are unsure if climate change could be creating more frequent and intense tornadoes, but there is an increasing concern, especially after last winter’s tornadoes that badly damaged a number of towns in Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. "We have to take tornadoes seriously in Michigan, more seriously than we used to," said Jonathan Overpeck, dean and professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. Overpeck says that a warming atmosphere leads to more significant storms and potentially more significant tornadoes, adding that it’s critical for Michigan to improve its tornado warning system and add storm shelters. Experts have noticed more tornadoes shifting from the center of the country to the east, with more cyclones occurring on tornado days. (Freep)

Energy lobby: Several advocacy groups, including the Citizens Utility Board of Michigan and the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, are circulating a petition calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate utilities like Consumers Energy and DTE Energy. These organizations say that the utilities are engaging in unfair practices that harm competitors installing renewable energy and consumers looking to put in rooftop solar. The petition says these companies are engaged in "unfair and deceptive acts including corrupt dealings and voting interference that drives up consumer electricity rates." Consumers, for example, gave $43.5 million over four years to the group Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy, which targeted politicians who were in favor of rooftop solar. (MI Radio)

Fixing the grid: Consumers Energy says it will invest $100 million in its high voltage distribution system (HVD) to prepare for climate change, which is bringing more frequent and intense storms to Michigan. "In those areas that we rebuilt HVD lines, we virtually eliminated power outages along those lines," said Consumers spokesperson Josh Paciorek. DTE Energy says it’s also investing in upgrades to its high voltage lines and will be surveying its system in the coming weeks to look for overhanging trees or damage from previous storms. Last August, a series of intense storms caused around one million Michiganders to lose power, with some waiting for more than a week to get reconnected. (MI Radio)

Big business: General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and General Mills were among 15 businesses who wrote Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to express their support for her MI Healthy Climate Plan, which looks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 with an interim goal of 60% renewable energy by 2030. “The companies that signed this letter know that climate action and statewide strategies are not only an economic opportunity for the state, but also a business imperative for them,” said Deana Dennis, the senior manager of state policy at the nonprofit Ceres. Ceres works with Michigan companies to achieve carbon neutrality. However, companies often use carbon offsets to achieve “carbon neutrality”, planting trees or investing in other projects to offset their emissions, a practice that has been controversial. At least one signee to the letter, Ikea, has been challenged for making little progress on its climate goals. (Great Lakes Echo, Vox, Guardian)

Already hot: Three women in a senior housing complex in Chicago died during an early heatwave that hit the city several weeks ago. The Cook County medical examiner’s office has yet to determine the cause of their deaths, but a city council member said she experienced temperatures as high as 102 degrees Fahrenheit in the complex. The building’s management seems to have believed a city ordinance prevented them from turning on the air conditioning until June 1. “Hotter and more dangerous heatwaves are coming earlier, in May … and the other thing is we are getting older and more people are living alone,“ said Eric Klinenberg, a New York University sociologist and author of the book “Heatwave” about the 1995 Chicago heat event that killed 700 people. Experts have warned that Detroit would also be extremely vulnerable to a prolonged heatwave, especially if it coincided with a power outage. (Guardian, Planet Detroit)

ICYMI: Regenerative agriculture, climate change, and Michigan

In case you missed it, here's a recording of our live discussion on regenerative agriculture and climate change in Michigan.


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 or hit reply!

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