climate change

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The Next Idea

Climate change presents one of the biggest problems we have ever faced. It is literally as large as our planet. We must take action to address it or its consequences will intensify, growing more costly and increasingly affecting us all.

Fortunately, we know what to do -- transition to cleaner sources of energy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Quickly.

In the electricity sector, this means rapidly tapping into renewable energy resources like wind and solar on a grand scale.

A magazine cover criticizing Canada's stance on climate change.
Kyle Pearce / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

New research finds people often stay quiet when it comes to talking about climate change.

It’s not because they’re afraid of being disliked.

A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that people avoid bringing up the subject for two main reasons:

1) People underestimate how much other people care about the subject.

2) People feel like they don’t know enough about the science of climate change to hold a discussion.

Climate activists see bringing climate change into the classroom as a simple matter of updating the science curriculum. But a recent survey revealed that science teachers are often ill-equipped to deal with the subject.
nl.monteiro / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


A survey published in the journal Science earlier this year showed that most science teachers spend little time teaching climate change - just an hour or two a year.

 

But making climate change a classroom priority doesn’t always win you fans.

 

pixabay user cocoparisienne / Public Domain

University of Michigan researchers are trying to figure out what exactly it takes to get people to care about climate change. Their study is published in Nature Climate Change

What they found seems to refute the popular line of thinking that culture is the biggest factor in whether we care and are willing to do something about climate change.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

City officials around the country are trying to figure out how to make changes in their communities to adapt to climate change.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina looked at 44 of these climate adaptation plans, and found they were a mixed bag.

Michigan will see more extreme storms as the climate changes
Flickr/mdprovost

By 2095, Michigan's summers will be like those we're used to seeing in Arkansas and Mississippi. Our winters will be like West Virginia's and Kentucky's.

And that changing climate – with extreme heat, big storms, plus a LOT more rain and snow – means we're looking at five major health risks, according to a new report from climate researchers and the state health department.

The Canada warbler is declining throughout its range in the U.S.
US Fish and Wildlife Service

Some kinds of birds are doing better in our changing climate, and others are declining. These changes are happening in similar ways in both the U.S. and Europe.

Those are the findings of a new study in the journal Science.

Phil Stephens is a senior lecturer in ecology at Durham University in the UK, and he’s a lead author of the study. 

Stephens and an international team of researchers studied data on more than 500 common species of birds over a 30 year period (1980-2010) in both Europe and the U.S.

Doug Kerr / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

If you want to help reduce greenhouse gases - without a major change in life style, the best single action is to drive a more fuel efficient car.

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute,  if every American were to drive a car that gets 31 mpg, instead of the current average of 21.4 mpg, total U.S. carbon emissions would drop by 5 percent.  Driving a vehicle that gets 56 mpg would mean a 10 percent drop.

Wikipedia

Attacking the science behind climate change effectively sways public opinion, according to a recent study by Michigan State University researchers.

MSU associate professor and sociologist Aaron McCright led the study of 1600 US adults.

McCright says messages that frame climate change as a public health or national security threat, or even through a “positive” frame like economic opportunity or religious obligation, seem to fall flat.

user Bernt Rostad / flickr

After the Paris climate agreement, it looks like 2016 could be a big year for new climate change and energy policies in the U.S.

And if Michigan businesses haven't already started preparing for new energy markets and a changing climate, they'll need to soon, says Andrew Hoffman, Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

"Any business who hasn't been looking at least at, where are our greenhouse gas emissions coming from? What will it cost to reduce them? Where will it be cheapest, where will it be most expensive?"

Lakes are getting warmer worldwide

Dec 18, 2015
user Rhonda Noren / Flickr

A study of 235 lakes around the world shows water temperatures are on the rise. The overall average increase was 0.61 degrees per decade over the past 25 years. Four of the five Great Lakes were included in the study, with deeper, colder Lake Superior showing the biggest temperature gain – about three times the worldwide average.

The ongoing temperature change could be damaging to Michigan's lake ecosystem and economy, says Donald Uzarski, director of the Institute for Great Lakes Research at Central Michigan University. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Aptly enough, it was 60 degrees in Michigan, in December, the day that 195 nations agreed to take steps to reduce carbon emissions.

Carbon dioxide from those emissions is heating the atmosphere, melting glaciers, and increasing sea levels.

In Ann Arbor, several hundred people joined a "Michigan Climate March," not to protest the accord, really, but to demand that governments go further.

At a rally following the march through city streets, participants held aloft signs bearing messages like, "I Love Clean Air," and "This is a Crisis." 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

As 190 nations try to finalize a climate change agreement in Paris, activists around the world are planning marches and rallies in support of that agreement.

But it won't be enough, says Nicholas Jansen of the group 350.org, so named for a reduction to 350 parts CO2 per million that the group is pushing the world to achieve.

That's why his group, and others around the world, will immediately begin pressuring their governments to go far beyond what is agreed to in Paris.

Jansen says the U.S. needs to play a large role.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Coal is an abundant source of energy.  But burning it spews billions of tons of climate-warming CO2 into the air every year.

Much hope has been placed on a developing technology known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).  The idea is to extract the carbon before it’s emitted from smokestacks, compress it, and store it underground. 

That could allow humans to keep using coal, without further loading the atmosphere and oceans with more CO2.

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

In 1997 world leaders met Kyoto, Japan to set goals to curb carbon emissions in response to the threat of global climate change. While some nations strove to meet those goals, other countries ignored them. Almost 20 years later, the world community is meeting again to come up with a global plan to fight 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.

FLICKR USER TOM GILL / FLICKR

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.

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