Climate, sprawl, and ticks in Michigan

CO2 2022/2021 419.82 ppm / 418.72 ppm

Dear Michigan Climate News readers,

This week's news brings us more ticks in the 'burbs, a debate over the role of nuclear power in Michigan's carbon future, and a report on climate impacts from our neighbor to the north.

Plus, we have a feature story that diectly answers a reader's question on what kind of tree to plant in a changing climate. Do you have a question we can answer? Hit reply and ask away!

And sign up for our next Facebook Live Friday, May 27 on Resilient Agriculture and Climate Change in Michigan.

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!


Climate, sprawl, and ticks: Climate change and suburban sprawl are allowing ticks to spread northward and increasing incidences of Lyme disease in the state. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Resources, cases of Lyme disease nearly doubled between 2016 and 2020, with the number growing from 228 diagnoses to 451. Charles Benjamin Beard, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s deputy director of vector-borne disease, says these numbers are a significant undercount because of the difficulty of diagnosing the disease, which can cause a range of symptoms including fatigue, seizures, and body aches. The growth of suburbs that often attract deer and other animals, as well as Lyme disease-bearing deer ticks, contributes to the spread of the disease between wildlife and people. Experts recommend wearing light-colored clothing when going outside, tucking pant legs into socks, using insect repellent, and doing a tick check when coming back inside. (Detroit News, Bloomberg)

Nuclear power and climate: State officials warn that the closure of the Palisades nuclear power plant near South Haven could endanger Michigan’s short-term climate goal of producing 60 percent of the state’s power with renewable energy. “It makes the hill tougher to climb,” said Dan Scripps, chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission. Utilities are moving to replace the 800 megawatts of energy produced by the nuclear plant with natural gas, i.e. methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking for federal help to keep the plant open, giving the state a window of time to build out more solar and wind generation. However, the International Joint Commission, which deals with Great Lakes issues, raised concerns about nuclear plants like Palisades storing waste along shorelines. Palisades also has a history of safety violations and test wells near the plant were found to have elevated levels of the radioactive isotope tritium, although this didn’t affect drinking water or make its way into Lake Michigan. (MLive)

Ontario’s climate: A report that the government of Ontario declined to make public, but which the Narwhal obtained through a Freedom of information request, shows development, extractive industries, and the climate crisis are taking a toll on the province. These impacts are especially severe along the shore of Lake Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford’s conservative government has fast-tracked housing developments and road-building projects that endanger wetlands and wildlife. The report also found that invasive species were affecting nearly all the lakes in southern Ontario, concluding that “aquatic habitat loss and degradation is the highest in this part of the province.” Deforestation is also a threat to Michigan’s neighbor, with Ford promising to double the province’s wood production by 2030. In November, Ontario’s auditor general found that the province is on track to achieve only a fifth of the emissions reductions it promised. (The Narwhal)

Energy updates: A number of developments are taking shape that could influence energy production, business, and transportation in Michigan. Here’s a rundown:

  • Solar farms: Several farms, rural businesses, and an electric cooperative will be the beneficiaries of $27 million in federal grants for solar arrays to help power their operations. This will produce an estimated 477,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a year. (MLive)
  • Also, gas: On the other side of the emissions ledger, a New York developer is trying for the second time to receive permits for a 1,000 megawatt natural gas project in Marshall. The state says the company's two proposed plants meet air quality regulations and they have drafted a permit. It’s estimated the plants would provide energy for more than 1 million homes. (MLive)
  • Battery funding: Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced $3.1 billion in federal funding for companies that make and recycle lithium-ion batteries like those used in electric vehicles. The move is being pitched as a way to create independence from foreign battery manufacturers and as part of the broader climate fight. (WaPo)

We missed spring: Record high temperatures are baking a large swath of Texas, part of a heatwave that could expand into much of the eastern United States. Chicago may see temperatures as high as 90 next week and large parts of Michigan could be in the 80s. Much of the northern Lower Peninsula also has a “red flag warning” for fire, on account of warm, dry and windy conditions that could allow wildfires to start and spread easily. The fire danger is due in part to the seasonal growth pattern of highly flammable Jack Pine trees. These become less likely to ignite as they start to grow and move more moisture into their branches. (WaPo, MLive)


Ask Climate Michigan: What kind of tree should I plant to help with climate change?

Dear Michigan Climate News,

Can you find out if pine trees help as much as leafy trees with carbon dioxide? It would guide me on what trees I should be planting.


Aspiring Arborist


What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at or hit reply!


Our reporting 

runs deep.

Get the latest local enviro news in your inbox with Planet Detroit.

Scroll to Top