Students, local officials weigh in on climate change as town hall convenes in Ann Arbor

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Outlook for Midwest illustrates need for stronger clean air safeguards

Environment Michigan

As scholars and experts gathered for the National Climate Assessment town hall Tuesday, students, local elected officials and Michigan grassroots organizations highlighted the need to move forward with stronger clean air safeguards to protect public health, the Great Lakes, and agriculture in Michigan.

“Climate change can no longer be ignored,” said University of Michigan graduate student Julia Ruedig. “The economic and environmental scenarios presented in the National Climate Assessment are not science-fiction. My generation will live to see these disaster scenarios become reality if today’s leaders do not act to mitigate our contributions to climate change.”

The NCA draft report, which was the subject of the town hall discussion, shows the Midwest and Michigan experiencing increased heat wave intensity and frequency, exacerbated public health problems, heightened risks to the Great Lakes such as invasive species, and extreme weather events that harm agriculture crops.

“The message is clear – with per capita greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent higher in the Midwest than the national average, we need to act quickly and responsibly to mitigate the negative consequences to our environment, our economy and our public health – or we will pay later,” said Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), Democratic Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes, and a member of the Great Lakes Commission. “The good news is that we have an amazing opportunity at both the state and federal level to address this critical issue while also creating new clean energy jobs for our people.”

The U.S. Environment Protection Agency is in the process of finalizing a rule to limit carbon emissions from new power plants. Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Clean Water Action, Environment Michigan, and many other grassroots organizations support further limits on carbon pollution emitted from existing power plants.

In his Inaugural address, President Barack Obama reiterated the “obligation” he and all Americans have to address climate change for the sake of future generations. He could propose a specific plan for tackling climate change during his State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

“Whether we seize the moment and reinvent our systems of energy, transportation and agriculture practices or whether we fail to act and suffer the worsening consequences of climate change, we are facing fundamental changes to how we eat, move and live,” said Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor). “That’s why it’s so important that, here in Michigan, we act immediately to shape this change and it’s the reason I’m committed to support clean energy, public transportation and green chemistry. With these strategies, we can protect this planet for future generations and foster greater prosperity and comfort for Michiganders.”

“The science is clear: global warming is a growing problem, and it’s not going away. Local, state and national leaders must act now to take the necessary steps to safeguard our precious natural resources,” said Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor). “As a new state legislator beginning my first term of office, I am committed to doing everything in my power to support President Obama and other national leaders in protecting future generations from the innumerable effects of global warming.”

The NCA report was coordinated by 13 federal government agencies under the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and was written by an advisory committee consisting of 60 scientists and other experts. The last National Climate Assessment Report was released in 2009.