climate change

General Motors

The Obama Administration says 13 of the nation's largest companies are taking the "American Business Act on Climate Pledge," including General Motors.

Other companies pledging to significantly reduce their carbon emissions are Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart.

Illustration courtesy of U.S. Global Change Research Program


Our climate is changing and people are working out ways to adapt.

A new report takes a look at how climate change is affecting weather in the U.S. and what people are doing to try to get ready for more changes in the future.

John Eisenschenk / Creative Commons

A new effort led by the private sector in Grand Rapids will try to cut water, energy use and transportation emissions in half over the next 15 years.

More than a dozen businesses, including Spectrum Health, Consumers Energy, Rockford Construction and SMG, which manages DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena, have agreed to the general concept. A new committee will draft details of the plan this year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack believes farmers can do more to combat climate change. 

He spoke to an audience of farmers and agri-business leaders this afternoon at Michigan State University.

Vilsack says farmers are very familiar with the effects of climate change.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The nation’s top agriculture official will be in East Lansing later today to unveil a new plan for dealing with climate change.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be on the Michigan State University campus. 

NPS Climate Change Response on Flickr / Flickr

When we talk about climate change and what it's doing to our world, we often talk about melting ice at the polar cap and rising sea levels.

But there is something else happening as well: The permafrost is melting. And as it does, it is releasing even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The scientific community largely agrees climate change is taking place. Yet the public debate over climate change is often polarizing.

Andrew Hoffman wanted to explore just what causes people to accept or reject the scientific consensus on climate change. The result is his new book How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate.

Hoffman is the Director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan. He is also a Professor of Sustainable Enterprise.


The Great Lakes sunk to some of their lowest water levels ever two years ago. People were concerned about the low levels then, but today people are concerned for the opposite reason – water levels are high.

Photo by d.boyd, Flickr

There's plenty of discussion about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, but are we ready to actually do something substantive about reducing those emissions?

Based on a national public opinion survey by CLOSUP, the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, the answer appears to be, "yes."

University of Michigan's Climate Center

Our climate is already changing in the Great Lakes region. And people who manage our cities are finding ways to adapt.

“We’re seeing changes in our precipitation patterns; we’re seeing more extreme precipitation events, " says Beth Gibbons, the director of the University of Michigan’s Climate Center. Her group has released a new online tool for cities in the region. 

Michigan State Police

Big, often destructive storms are becoming much more frequent in Michigan.

Over the last 50 years, we've seen an 89% increase in storms that dump two or more inches of precipitation in a single day.

creative commons

Does a stretch of unseasonable warmth do much to influence people’s views on climate change?

One recent study suggests the answer is: No.

This study looked at two big data points. One was weather data for the winter of 2012, an unusually warm one across most of the country—and the 4th-warmest on record for the contiguous US as a whole.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Grand Haven is the latest city to consider climate change in its master plan. It’s part of a grant-funded project called Resilient Michigan.

Harry Burkholder is a community planner with the program. He says they’re working with city and township officials to help them prepare for more extreme weather events like heat waves and intense rainstorms.

“A lot of communities are looking at ways to increase pervious pavement on sidewalks and parking lots; ways that you can collect rainwater right from your home or even from your business in large underground cisterns so it doesn’t automatically go into the sewer system,” he says.

Heavy rain events can overload sewer systems and lead to sewage overflows into rivers and lakes.

Resilient Michigan is also working with Monroe, Ludington, St. Joseph and East Jordan.

They’ll be launching a program with the Port Huron community in November, and Burkholder says they have enough grant money to work with one more Michigan community.

User: Takver / Flickr

Say the words "climate change," and just watch the battle lines form.

On one side, we have those – including the scientific community – who say it is not only coming, it is here and we're going to be challenged by extreme weather as a consequence.

On the other side, we have those who doubt the grim warnings of climate scientists. They believe warming is just a part of nature's cycle.

User: memories_by_mike / Flickr

As an article in the New York Times put it this week, “Alaskans stay in Alaska. People in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest: sit tight.” That’s the message from climate change researchers, who are predicting what places in the U.S. will be hit hardest by climate change.

It looks like the Midwest will be all right, relatively speaking.

Matthew Kahn is a professor at the UCLA Institute of Environment. He says that in 80 or 90 years, Detroit could be seeing a huge trend of people moving in – because of climate change.

"If rainfall really stops falling in the Southwest, and we don't come up with ways to allocate water efficiently, you're going to see millions of households and thousands of firms looking across the United States for better, less risky places to live. And the Midwest might compete very well there, just as it has in the past," says Kahn. 

*Listen to our conversation with Matthew Kahn above.

user:yooperann / Flickr

The U.S. Forest Service has put out a report on how our warming climate is affecting forests in the U.P.

Stephen Handler is a climate change specialist with the Forest Service. He says, over the past several decades, we’ve been getting more extreme rainstorms in the region.

“So, more rain of two inches at a time, three inches at a time; and we’re seeing our winters, which is our characteristic climatic feature, shrinking, so, getting shorter and getting more variable, or getting less consistent snowpack,” he says.

Common loon is one of the climate endangered species in Michigan.
User: jackanapes / Flickr


A recent report from the National Audubon Society points to troubling times ahead for our bird population.

Climate change could make some huge changes for birds in North America: About half of our 650 species would be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find totally new places to live or become extinct – all of this in just the next 65 years.

Jonathan Lutz is the executive director of the Michigan Audubon Society. He says in Michigan, about 50 species are vulnerable to the changing climate.

Gary Peters
User: Gary Peters / facebook

It's a tight race as Democrat Gary Peters fights to succeed Carl Levin in the United States Senate. The latest Detroit Free Press/WXYZ-TV poll shows Peters with a six-point lead over Republican challenger Terri Lynn Land.

It has become clear that Congressman Peters has decided to make climate change one of the central issues of his campaign.

Andrew Restuccia reported on the Peters "Green Theme" for Politico.

Restuccia said it’s unusual for political candidates to make climate change one of their campaign focuses, especially in such a tight race, and Michigan in particular.


An environmental group’s report says climate change is already affecting how Americans experience the outdoors.

The National Wildlife Federation’s report “Ticked Off: America’s outdoor experience and climate change” cites this summer’s toxic algal blooms in Western Lake Erie as a prime example of the phenomenon.

The flooding event in Detroit fits the global warming pattern, according to reports such as National Climate Assessment.
Michigan Emergency Management & Homeland Security / Flickr

Climate scientists have issued a steady drumbeat of warnings and data pointing to profound changes that have already begun because of climate change.

Yet a survey from the United Kingdom finds that when it comes to climate denial, the United States leads the world. Only 54% of Americans agree that human activity is largely causing the climate change we're currently seeing.

Why is the U.S. the world leader in climate denial? And how can scientists and policymakers convert the "deniers?"

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

These days, getting pretty much any kind of environmental policy made into law involves a lot of fighting and delay.

New research from Michigan State University finds Americans are becoming more divided over environmental protection and they seem to be getting their cue mainly from Congress.

Aaron McCright is a sociologist at MSU and the lead author of the study. He writes that things weren’t always so partisan. In fact, many landmark environmental laws were born during the Nixon Administration.

From 'Red Scare' to 'Green Menace'

But then the Soviet Union fell and, according to McCright's research, the American conservative movement (consisting of major conservative think tanks, wealthy families, and conservative foundations) moved its focus away from former communists toward what they saw as the 'green menace'.

"This really came through in the late 80s and early 90s, so this anti-environmentalism of the conservative movement was driving the changing policy stance of the Republican party and it's mostly because of a significant drop off in pro-environmental voting among Republicans in both the House and the Senate,"said McCright. "Whereas the Democrats just sort of continued on a light, upward trend in pro-environmental voting."

User: Total due / Flickr

“What a beautiful fall day.”

Normally you won’t think anything of a tweet like this. But when that tweet comes at the end of July, it’s a little disconcerting.  

With the temperatures over the past few weeks dipping into the 50s, it’s hard not to think about the bigger consequences.

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently said if climate trends continue, Michigan agriculture will be harmed. That’s a big issue when you consider that agriculture is the state’s second largest industry, and agri-food and agri-energy businesses make up more than 20% of the state’s workforce.

Philip Robertson is a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Michigan State University. He joined us today to talk about how climate change could affect the future of farming in Michigan.

Jim Byrum was also with us to share what it means from the business side of agriculture. Byrum is the President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association.

*Listen to the full interview above.

Lake Improvement Association / Flickr

The western end of Lake Erie, especially near Toledo, is seeing a lot of cyanobacteria this year. It’s been worse, but this year's cyanobacteria bloom is larger than average.

And we’re seeing a kind of cyanobacteria (sometimes referred to as blue-green algae) that can produce a toxin. It can make you sick if you swim in it. It can make pets sick. And it’s a problem for water purification plants and drinking water, too.

Don Scavia is the director of the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. He’s also an aquatic ecologist.

When Lake Erie was considered “dead” back in the 1960s and '70s, these cyanobacteria blooms were a contributing factor.

If even hearing the word “ragweed” makes your eyes water, you might be one of the nearly 45 million Americans with seasonal allergies. Researchers say climate change is fueling the rise in allergies and asthma.

Jenny Fischer has been taking over-the-counter medication for allergies for a long time. Without it, she suffers cold-like symptoms: a runny nose, sneezing and congestion. An allergy pill usually made it better. But a couple of years ago, things started to get worse.

“I’d be out at 5:30 in the morning walking my dog, and it would just be huffing and puffing. And, you know, I couldn’t catch my breath. It's scary," she said.

Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities / University of Michigan

*Want to see how climate change will impact the economy of the Great Lakes region? Check out this interactive map from the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities at the University of Michigan.

The most recent report on the world’s climate from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that no one will be untouched by the effects of climate change. Henry Pollack is one of the contributors to the IPCC report.

Pollack said the most important message from this report is that climate change is real. Humans are the principal factor, the consequences are not pretty, and the window for fixing the issue is getting smaller and smaller.

The report is a compilation of reports from experts all over the world.  

Pollack says climate change will affect everyone in different ways depending on where they live. In Michigan we can expect to see lower water levels in the Great Lakes. Earlier growing seasons may eventually occur, which could be problematic if there were an unexpected freeze. The two principle crops in Michigan, corn and soybeans, would also be very vulnerable to high temperatures.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

On Monday morning, the Environmental Protection Agency released the federal government’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The agency's calling it the "Clean Power Plan."

The EPA says carbon dioxide emissions are the main driver of climate change. The agency is proposing a 30% reduction in CO2 from power plants by 2030. Here's what EPA says about the proposed regulations:

Climate change is not just a problem for the future. We are facing its impacts today:

Average temperatures have risen in most states since 1901, with seven of the top 10 warmest years on record occurring since 1998.  Climate and weather disasters in 2012 cost the American economy more than $100 billion. Nationwide, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will help cut carbon pollution from the power sector by approximately 30 per cent from 2005 levels. It will also reduce pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick by over 25 percent.

Policymakers at the state level and the state’s major power companies don’t seem surprised by the news. 

DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan.
user cgord / wikimedia commons

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration will argue for flexibility to meet proposed new federal standards for greenhouse gas emissions. The rule was made public today by the EPA. It calls for a 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, compared to emissions in 2005.

“We support that goal. We think it’s a legitimate goal. Our issue is – and there’s a lot of detail yet that we haven’t gone through – will the state be given the flexibility, and will it be an orderly transition?” said Dan Wyant, the director of the state Department of Environmental Quality.

He says the state is already on a path to meet the 10 percent renewable energy target required by a 2008 state law. But he says future goals should be broader than forcing a transition to alternative fuels.

“We know it can be disruptive – reliability and affordability can be impacted if we go too fast, too hard, too soon,” said Wyant. He said, for example, Michigan will ask the Obama administration to count utilities’ efficiency efforts against emissions targets.

The final version of the rule won’t be adopted until next year following a public comment period.  A legislative workgroup is starting to plot Michigan’s next energy strategy. Michigan is also part of the Midwestern Power Sector Collaborative, which is pondering a regional approach to complying with the new emissions standards.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Climate change is making Michigan farmers more vulnerable to dramatic weather shifts, according to a new report.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program released a report this morning claiming climate change is no longer a future threat but is a reality now.

Big news out of Washington, D.C. today: The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Michigan’s ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action. The Court's majority held that Michigan voters were within their rights to amend the state constitution to ban the college admission policies. We dove into the decision on today's show.

Then, we checked in with Michigan Radio's auto-beat reporter Tracy Samilton about big changes that are likely in the leadership at Ford.

And, on this Earth Day, what moths can tell us about the world's changing climate.

Also, we spoke with author Joseph Tirella about his book Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World's Fair and the Transformation of America.

First on the show, it's taken months of bargaining, bickering and posturing, but there have been promising advances in the Detroit bankruptcy journey.

Pieces are starting to fall into place that could complete the so-called "grand bargain" that would protect the DIA collection and soften the blow for Detroit's retirees.

First came word of a tentative deal between the city and its pensioners. A day later, the board that represents police and fire retirees gave unanimous approval to the deal.

Now it's on to the next hurdle: getting state lawmakers to approve Michigan's share of the grand bargain – $350 million.

Chris Gautz, Capitol Correspondent of Crain's Detroit Business, joined us today.

Today marks the 44th anniversary of Earth Day. Many consider April 22, 1970 to be the birth of the modern environmental movement.

At that time, Earth Day organizers had an advantage: The environmental problems were highly visible, tangible problems that people came up against in their daily lives, such as toxic effluent from factories spilled into streams and rivers. Kids couldn't swim in lakes and rivers because they were too polluted.  Parks and highways were strewn with trash and air pollution made people sick.

You could draw a direct connection between these problems and the need for environmental action to improve the quality of life for everyone.

Many of today's biggest environmental concerns seem more abstract even though they are perhaps even more threatening than the burning river in Cleveland. Global warming is one example.

That's why a study by our next guest caught our eye. He found that what is happening to moths in Finnish Lapland suggests that we're underestimating the impacts of climate change because much of the harm is hidden from view.

Mark Hunter is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.