The Changing Climate of Climate Change

A weekly update on environmental policy happenings from Ryan Werder, Political Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (Twitter: @rjwerder)

The legislature is on a two-week Spring Break, but while they’re soaking up the sun, we’re talking about climate change. Frankly, a break from some of the legislation that has been coming out of Lansing recently is pretty welcome on our side of things, too!

Americans are increasingly aware and concerned about climate change. According to a prominent retired U.S. Navy admiral who testified in Lansing last week, it is with good reason. Fortunately, there are solutions. The EPA issued a historic set of carbon emission rules this week while, more locally, cities like Grand Rapids are improving transportation options for their citizens while simultaneously cutting down on carbon emissions.

EPA Announces Historic Protections Against Industrial Carbon Pollution

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the country’s first-ever national standard controlling industrial carbon pollution. New fossil-fuel fired power plants, such as coal, would not be able to emit more than 1000 lbs per megaWatt/hour. Put another way, we are on the threshold of an American energy policy that closes the door on some of the worst sources of pollution in our country, such as coal plants. Join LCV in thanking the EPA and urging that the final rule be as strong as possible.

It’s important to note, however, that the standards will only apply to new power plants which begin construction after March 2013. Existing plants will not be forced offline, but as they are phased out – because we have incredibly old plants in Michigan – they will be replaced by cleaner sources of energy.

Unfortunately, Michigan’s Rep. Fred Upton (R) predictably criticized the new rule. The Michigan legislature had also adopted a resolution last year, SB 10, urging Congress to prevent the EPA from reducing industrial carbon pollution. His position is increasingly out-of-touch with most Americans, and especially with Michigan’s children and families suffering from asthma and heart attacks due to local coal plants.

A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan found that Americans’ acceptence of climate change science rose from 58% in 2009 to 62% in 2011. The general public is slowly catching up to climate scientists, of whom 97% believe that climate change is real and man-made. The other 3% of scientists were sunbathing on the beaches in Traverse City when it was 85 degrees in mid-March, when the recorded high temperture was double its average.

The EPA’s new rule will make our air cleaner, the public healthier, and reduce our contribution to climate change. It’s a positive and historic step in the right direction.

Admiral Gunn Addresses State Legislature About National Security Risks of Climate Change

While more and more Americans accept the science of climate change, few are aware of its impact on national security. That’s why retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Lee Gunn is addressing state lawmakers, including those in his home state of Michigan, about the national security dangers of climate change.

Admiral Gunn, President of the Institute for Public Research at the Center for Naval Analyses, addressed specific opportunities for Michigan to take the lead in renewable energy and alternative fuel vehicles. He also focused on national security threats posed by climate changeand our dependence on oil.

He noted that our dependence requires us to be militarily involved in the Middle East and could raise tensions with China, which will be competing for the same oil imports. The environmental impacts of global warming could excacerbate tensions worldwide, impacting food, water, and natural resource supplies, which can raise tensions and decrease stablity.

So why testify in Michigan? Why not out in DC? Because Michigan, as a world leader in manufacturing and auto-producing, stands to benefit more than most by leading the way in producing cars like the Chevy Volt or the Ford Focus Electric, as well as renewable energy manufacturing. Though Admiral Gunn didn’t explicitly endorse the 25% by 2025 initiative, he praised it for putting energy at the forefront of the political debate.

The armed forces are likely to be investing more than $10 billion each year in clean energy by 2030. This is our opportunity to once again be the Arsenal of Democracy, just as we were in World War II. Our chance to live up to the legacy of our parents and grandparents is going to be on the ballot in November and Uncle Sam wants YOU to vote for 25% by 2025.

Click here to find out how you can help Michigan lead the way in renewable energy manufacturing!

Grand Rapids is Rapid-ly Expanding Public Transit Options

One way to use less oil and put less carbon into the air is to use public transit, and Grand Rapids is becomming a leader in just that. It’s Rapid bus transit system showed a 16% increase in ridership over the last year, thanks to expanding service achieved through a $150 million mileage approved last year.

The milage, which voters approved on May 3 last year, was a testament to how much each vote counts and what it takes to make sure those votes make it to the polls. Michigan LCV is proud to have housed the campaign, which won by 136 votes. Led by our West Michigan Director Phil Skaggs, West Michigan Organizer Zane Corriveau, Board members Mayor George Heartwell, Elizabeth Lykins, and Bill Farr, and coordinated through the excellent Friends of Transit organization, we sent mailers, knocked on doors, and identified 3,000 new citizens to exercise their civic right to vote. Seeing it pay off in over 300,000 new Rapid rides makes it all worthwhile and once again highlights how we can protect Michigan’s environment, create jobs, and improve health through elections.

I’d be remiss not to mention the great work our friends at the West Michigan Environmental Council (WMEAC) are doing in Grand Rapids, too!

Free Press: Bankrupting Composters is Bad Business

The Detroit Free Press editorial board weighed in on the composting controversy this week by opposing HB 4265 and 4266, which would allow yard waste into landfills. They made the point that Michigan shouldn’t pull the rug out from under businesses it encourages, like composters, who would likely go bankrupt if the bills are passed. They also pointed out that the extra electricity generated from yard waste would be miniscule.

Check out our March 19 PWIR composting feature for more details and, while you’re at it, subscribe to future PWIR’s, too!

In Other News…

I’ll join First Shift with Tony Trupiano on AM 1310 WDTW at 7:00am tomorrow to talk about our citizen accountability suite, including theEnvironmental Scorecard, How Green is Your Governor?, and our upcoming Green Gavels judicial accountability tool. Listen in to find out how we help you hold your legislators accountable for conserving your enviroment, or catch the podcast at under "Ryan Werder."

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