With a population of approximately 10 million, Michigan is the 10th most populous of the American states, the 11th most extensive by area, and the largest by area east of the Mississippi River. Surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, it also has more freshwater coastline than any other state in the union.
Like many centralized states, it has seen an increase in some of the more tangible effects of climate change such as increased heavy rainfall, an uptick in annual heat waves and a 63% decrease in winter ice coverage on the Great Lakes since 1970.
With a large portion of Michigan residents concentrated in and around the Great Lakes region, communities are largely dependent on them for their basic needs. Rising temperatures and increased rainfall precipitation have created blooms in Lake Erie, for example, contaminating water supplies in multiple townships surrounding Monroe County and disturbing fish populations.
Despite this evidence, and with annual GHG emissions 20% higher than the national average, Michigan has done little to curb their environmental footprint with climate legislation at the state level.
In 2016, Michigan lawmakers debated whether to rollback or make minimal increases to their existing 10% Renewable Energy Standard. With this policy stagnation, Michigan is far behind the curve in the race to clean energy, featuring inaction from legislators and an undeterred reliance on fossil fuels. Currently there are a few bills aimed at combating climate change awaiting a vote from state legislature such as the Clean and Renewable Energy Waste Reduction Act among others. However, given the recent voting history of Michigan lawmakers, the likelihood of meaningful climate change action does not seem close at hand.
What is most troublesome about Michigan’s inaction is that shifting resources to the environment could potentially yield such a huge boost to Michigan’s economy. Stanford University found that fully powering Michigan with renewable energy would create 150,000 jobs, save more than 1,700 lives a year and generate an average $11,000 reduction in each citizen’s energy/health cost. Fortunately, there is a strong call for cleaner energy from Michigan’s citizens and various organizations across the state such as the Michigan Climate Action Network, which has worked to spread information regarding climate change, its effects on Michigan and what can be done to fight it. They have four major goals underlining their fight: move 100% of the state’s energy to renewable sources, electrify public transportation, put an end to the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline running through the Great Lakes, and fight for cleaner energy policies.