The limits of tree planting

CO2 2022/2021 420.51 ppm / 418.41 ppm

Dear Michigan Climate News readers,

This week, we have the rundown on climate news with summer forecasts, how much battery storage Michigan is planning for, and the benefits and limits of that favorite Earth Day activity: tree planting.

Plus, we have a feature story on how local engineers are grappling with a wetter future when it comes to stormwater infrastructure.

If you missed our Facebook Live Friday on that topic, you can check it out here:

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!


Hot and getting hotter: The U.S. has a hot summer ahead of it, according to a long-range forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency uses computer modeling, soil moisture levels, and long-term climate trends to make its predictions. These show Michigan has a slightly elevated chance of being warmer than normal. However, they predict that much of the U.S. West has a more significant chance of being hotter than average. This is bad news for California, where The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) has declared an emergency water shortage for the first time ever. Meanwhile, climate change is hitting New Mexico and Arizona with an early fire season. Further afield, India and Pakistan are enduring a punishing heatwave with temperatures as high as 122 Fahrenheit in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. This is a climate emergency. (MLive, WaPo, NPR, Guardian)

Storage goals: Michigan has become the 10th state with a goal for energy storage, part of the recently released MI Healthy Climate Plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Deploying batteries or other storage technologies is considered crucial for a transition to renewable power sources like wind and solar, whose supply is variable. Michigan’s plan calls for 4,000 megawatts of storage by 2040, with an interim target of building 1,000 MW by 2025. However, other states are moving faster to build out storage. New York’s target is 6 gigawatts by 2030. (A gigawatt is equal to 1,000 megawatts.) Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the storage would help residents weather climate threats like storm-related outages and extreme cold while creating good jobs and reducing emissions. (Energy Storage News, Irish Times)

Change of thought: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is embarking on a $1.1 million study on managing high water and erosion in the eight Great Lakes states. The study is intended to reevaluate methods used in the past to deal with high water like boulders and seawalls. Nick Zager, chief of planning for the Army Corps Detroit District, said the agency is trying to “get away from hardening the shoreline” because these defenses can undermine neighboring properties and damage habitat. Nature-based approaches like building wetlands or reefs can reduce wave energy and create wildlife habitats. The study also intends to help communities understand the benefits of a “managed retreat” away from shorelines as climate change amplifies storms and flooding. (MLive)

Tree planting and its limits: Last week, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources announced they would plant 50 million trees by 2030, part of the global “Trillion Trees” campaign. Meanwhile, the Arbor Day Foundation promises to plant 500 million trees in the next five years, and the city of Detroit has planted 5,500 trees since 2017 and is giving away an additional 5,000 saplings to residents who want them. Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said tree planting is “an easy way for us to improve the quality of life for our residents and help contribute to the fight against climate change.” A healthy canopy can reduce heat in cities by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit on hot days, as well as help sequester rainwater during storms. However, trees are not a cure-all for the climate crisis. Experts doubt that trees can absorb carbon fast enough to seriously mitigate global heating, arguing that tree planting, although important, is no substitute for actually reigning in emissions. (Freep, NY Times) and

Sugar season: Sugar maples and maple syrup production are an economically important and culturally significant presence in the Great Lakes, but mapping by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) shows the species declining across its historical range. Michigan has seen falling syrup production in the last several years, and the sugaring season in 2021 was five days shorter than 2020. However, the state still delivered around 3.5 million gallons of syrup last year. The USFS previously predicted the species would suffer significant declines but now believes it will “decline only modestly” and could serve as an infill species, moving into disturbed spaces. (Great Lakes Now)


Engineers grapple with how to build climate resilience into Michigan’s stormwater infrastructure

Local municipal water engineers are in a tough spot these days. Bound by often-outdated county and municipal drainage codes while managing aging infrastructure, there’s only so much they can do when planning for a warmer, wetter future in Michigan. Read more>>>

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