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Bill Schuette and Gretchen Whitmer take different tacks to climate change

November 6: Gretchen Whitmer projected winner in Michigan governor race

Intense rain and flooding, more pollution in lakes and rivers, higher risks of harmful algal blooms, increased droughts and disease-carrying pests — like ticks and mosquitos.

Those are just a few trends the Great Lakes region can expect as the earth continues warming in the coming decades, climate experts say.

Related: Comparing the environmental records of Bill Schuette and Gretchen Whitmer

All 83 of Michigan counties have grown warmer on average over the past three decades, according to a recent data analysis by the Associated Press. Much of the Lower Peninsula is about 2 degrees hotter.

Independent scientific studies continue to conclude earth’s atmosphere and oceans are  steadily warming because of human activity that emits carbon dioxide. The trend has widespread consequences across the globe.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — comprised of the world’s top scientists — this month warned global leaders they must pursue an “unprecedented” transformation of international economies over the next decade to limit global temperature increases to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and avoid some of the most devastating consequences of warming: severe drought and coastal flooding that could displace millions of people in low-lying areas, disrupt global food supplies and destabilize some governments.

Related: Truth Squad | Bill Schuette goes foul, claims Whitmer will ‘kill’ Flint case
Related: 2018 Bridge Michigan Voter Guide: Links to our relevant election coverage

How should Michigan respond to the latest warning? Bridge Magazine asked the two leading candidates for governor: Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, and Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat and former state Senate majority leader.

Here’s what they said.

Bill Schuette

Schuette this year signed onto a legal brief questioning the scientific consensus surrounding climate change, but he told Bridge Magazine “I do believe that the earth is warming.”

“All of us in government have a responsibility to better understand the science and its long-term implications and to forge sensible public policies that ensure protection of our planet as well as our state and national economies,” Schuette said in an email through spokesman John Sellek.

“In 2018, we can and must balance conservation and environmental interests while also advancing Michigan's economic interests, growing our economy to attract more jobs and people and improving the quality of life for all Michiganians.”

Schuette added: “But, I will be a pro-manufacturing governor. Michigan benefits when we are manufacturing. For example, the addition of the Ram truck assembly in Macomb County is very important. We cannot turn away good paying jobs for our workers and families.”

Gretchen Whitmer

“I believe that climate change is real and we need to take steps to combat it,” Whitmer said in an email through spokeswoman Eileen Belden. “The facts show that this is a real threat to our environment, our economy, and the health and wellbeing of the people of our state.”

Whitmer pledged to enter Michigan into the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of 17 governors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, the international treaty President Donald Trump vows to leave. She also promised to create a state “department of the Great Lakes and Fresh Water”, which would house an “Office of Climate Change.”

That agency would would “provide insight and recommendations to the governor, state departments, the legislature and municipalities on how to mitigate the effects of climate change, how to adapt to it, and, generally, be the resource for all things related to it,” Whitmer said.

She also vowed to upgrade the state’s aging electric and heating grids to cut energy waste while “making sure Michigan has the edge in electric vehicles will not only reduce carbon emissions, but create and protect jobs here in our state.”

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