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Opinion | The time is now for Michigan to invest in climate resiliency plans

Constant catastrophic flooding. Frequent severe rain storms. Record heat waves. Massive algae blooms. A 63 percent decrease in winter ice coverage. Lower agriculture yields. All devastating effects that we’ve been warned that climate change will bring to Michigan.

Except these disasters are happening now.

Jeff Irwin, Rosemary Bayer
Jeff Irwin is a Democratic state senator from Ann Arbor. Rosemary Bayer is a Democratic state senator from Beverly Hills in Oakland County. (Courtesy photos)

For many Michiganders, they don’t need to look very far to see how climate change is already affecting their daily lives. Just a few weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of homes lost power when Southeast Michigan experienced another major flood, putting people’s lives, homes, and businesses at risk. This is because Michigan is currently experiencing the second wettest five-year period in Great Lakes history, capping off a June that was the 10th wettest month on record, according to data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The catastrophic pattern we’re seeing with every major storm indicates that the impact area of power outages and major flooding will only continue to grow as weather patterns become more severe and unpredictable. Michiganders should not have to live in fear that the very foundation beneath their feet will crumble every time it rains.

A plan to invest in Michigan’s water infrastructure, respond to weather emergencies, and upgrade homes and other critical infrastructure is not only necessary, but long overdue.

On August 10, Michigan Democrats unveiled a $5 billion climate resiliency investment plan to help upgrade the state’s infrastructure to effectively deal with the ongoing effects of climate change. The plan seeks to aid residents across the state through a variety of initiatives and projects, including many that would directly benefit the residents of Southeastern Michigan communities.

Homeowner relief from the devastating impacts of flooding, and improving stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, are among the top issues being tackled by this plan. In addition, initiatives like the creation of a Disaster Relief Navigator, the installation of essential transportation pumps and power sources along major highways, and the implementation of Disaster Alert Systems will aid those in navigating disaster assistance and emergency relief resources to anyone needing to travel during storms.

But this plan isn’t only about relief and preparation. It presents us with an opportunity to invest in Michigan and bring economic growth, good-paying jobs, and make Michigan a national leader. The plan Michigan Democrats are proposing are investments in all the contractors, engineers, union laborers and machine operators, concrete and steel manufacturers, truck drivers, and the thousands of others who are required to complete the work ahead. While climate change is undoubtedly disastrous, it can be an economic opportunity.

Through decades of advancements in science and technology, we understand more clearly — now more than ever before — how climate change is currently affecting us and how it will continue to shape our environment moving forward. Like the rest of the world, Michigan must work toward mitigating the projected trajectory of climate change by significantly reducing our greenhouse gas generation.

Michigan can, and should, lead the nation in implementing climate resiliency plans, providing a framework for other states to follow. Our own state’s history of pioneering innovation proves there’s no better place to start.

Immediate action that prioritizes both short- and long-term solutions to alleviate further damage and to protect both Michiganders and the environment is critical to ensuring our state remains a safe, habitable place for all.

Every day that passes with inaction is a day too late. We need to invest in, and implement, the programs detailed in our Climate Resilience Plan, and we can’t afford to wait any longer.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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