Opinion | For our kids’ sake, we have to address climate change in Michigan
That itchy, red spot just isn’t going away. We gave it several days and now it warranted a doctor visit for my 8-year-old daughter. Could it be just a reaction, a spider bite? No, imagine my sinking heart and near panic hearing from the Lyme Disease specialist that happened to be in our pediatrician’s office that indeed, it looked like the bullseye tick bite. Luckily, with a strong round of antibiotics, it was treated in time.
Just six months later, it was my turn. What started as a tiny itchy spot blew up overnight into a giant red, inflamed and painful circle on my forearm. The trip to urgent care resulted in the same precautionary treatment for potential Lyme tick bite.
Others aren’t so lucky to get early treatment and are left with a lifetime of debilitating disease. Ticks aren’t new to Michiganders, but their population is on the rise. The Fourth National Climate Assessment makes clear warnings for our Midwest Region, that, “climate-related changes in habitats for disease-carrying insects like the mosquito that transmits West Nile virus (WNV) and the blacklegged, or deer, tick that transmits Lyme disease have been associated with higher rates of infection.”
I’ve been concerned about climate change for a long time. When I became a mother in 2012, the urgency took on a whole new meaning, what we do (or don’t do) now will determine my child’s future. By the time she walks in her high school graduation, humanity will either be set on a path to climate stabilization or climate breakdown.
We clearly see the devastating consequences of delayed action on climate change around the world and in our own backyards. In Michigan, without bold action, we can expect more frequent and intense precipitation events, flooding, toxic algal blooms, dangerous heat waves, volatile lake levels with fewer days of ice cover, decline of cold water fish, disrupted jet stream, crop losses, stress on species, degradation of ecosystems and worsening air quality, with disproportionate adverse health impacts on communities of color.
It’s up to the leaders of the biggest economies of the world to change course. And it’s up to the people to speak to those leaders, respectfully, yet persistently, to build the political will for a livable world.
That’s exactly the work I’ve been doing with thousands of dedicated volunteers in Citizens’ Climate Lobby for the past ten years. With 23 chapters right here in Michigan, CCL turned my despair into action and hope. We face an existential threat like none other in history, yet I am optimistic based on the real progress towards solutions that meet the scale of the problem.
This Earth Day, I celebrate Michigan’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. There is renewed focus on solving the climate crisis, and leaders are asking for your input on how to do it. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is offering two sessions for public comment on Earth Day, and on May 5. “The sessions are meant to receive input from members of the public to help shape the MI Healthy Climate Plan, the governor’s ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reaching statewide carbon neutrality by 2050.”
What are your favorite climate solutions?
For me, the answer is easy. I advocate for a carbon fee and dividend policy because a carbon price is the single most powerful tool available to reduce carbon emissions.
HR 2307 the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act has been reintroduced in Congress. It will reduce carbon pollution 30 percent in the first five years alone and get us to net zero by 2050. The money collected from fossil fuel companies goes to Americans in the form of a monthly “carbon cash back” payment so that everyone can afford the transition, 95 percent of low- to middle-income households will come out ahead or essentially break even.
This type of legislation can work at the state level, too. Complementary policies are needed, rewilding and conserving forests, lakes, and rivers, regenerative agriculture, affordable energy efficient green housing, transportation, infrastructure, and much more!
Join the conversation, what is your climate story? What are your solution recommendations?
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