U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) stopped in Grand Rapids this week to release an impact report on the climate crisis in Michigan. While in town she hopped on a Dash CNG bus to tour a sampling of some of the cities high efficient, LEED certified, and sustainable infrastructure projects including Circuit West and Brewery Vivant.
Grand Rapids has a long history of sustainability and is home to 533 of the 1,624 LEED certified buildings in the state according to the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan. These buildings have been an important part of the landscape and the list includes 9 of the world’s firsts. "As the world’s first LEED certified commercial microbrewery, Brewery Vivant is committed to a more sustainable future through innovative solutions,” said Kris Spaulding, Owner & President of Brewery Vivant. “We are proud to stand with Senator Stabenow in discussing how to address the impacts of climate change in our state.”
But it isn’t only buildings that will solve our climate crisis as Paul Hawken, creator of Drawdown, explained at the Rise Up & Drawdown Michigan conference that attracted 500 people at DeVos Place on September 25th. Other top solutions include reducing food waste, refrigerant management, and educating girls. The New York Times bestselling book provides the top 80 solutions and encourages readers to flip the conversation from doom & gloom to one of hope and inspiration. “Climate change is not happening to us, it’s happening for us” said Hawken.
Stabenow said the data included in the report was not meant to elicit hopelessness in people due to climate change, rather a sense of urgency. She said Michigan can be a leader in curbing carbon footprints. Michigan currently ranks first in the Midwest for clean energy jobs and fifth in the country. Michigan’s clean-energy industry is expected to grow another 9% in 2019, more than any other state in the Midwest.
“Science is clear. The climate crisis is already impacting Michigan’s public health, our Great Lakes, agriculture, and our economy,” said Senator Stabenow. “While there is no silver bullet to address this crisis, Michigan is poised to lead the way in finding solutions. Our state’s investments in renewable and zero emission electricity, energy efficiency, and new vehicle technologies are already creating good-paying jobs, lowering the cost of energy, and reducing the impact of the climate crisis.”
Senator Stabenow’s new report titled “The Climate Crisis and Michigan” documents scientific research on the impact of climate change in Michigan.
The impact on our Great Lakes can be seen in extreme water levels in coastal communities and extreme rain and severe storms overwhelming local infrastructure and flooding homes. The impact on our agriculture includes fluctuating temperatures harming fruit growers and changes in seasonal precipitation leading to planting delays.
The U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan is tracking the annual greenhouse gas emissions from our existing building infrastructure and transportation in Michigan's 10 most populous cities. Today, these 10 cities are emitting 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year. “To offset this urban pollution would require 23 million acres of U.S. forest,” said Cheri Holman, Executive Director of the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan, “but with our current resource at 19 million acres and population on the rise, we need to take immediate and bold action to begin drawing down our carbon emissions with solutions such as electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and renewable energy generation."
“We recognize that the climate crisis is real. It is impacting our residents and businesses, which is why reducing carbon emissions and increasing climate resiliency is included in our four-year strategic plan,” said AlisonWaske Sutter, Sustainability and Performance Management Officer of the City of Grand Rapids. “We are developing a strategy to achieve our 100 percent renewable energy goal, which will include energy efficiency, solar and renewable energy credits. We are also collaborating with community stakeholders to find equitable solutions to reducing carbon generated by our community at-large.”
Stabenow’s report outlines how Michigan is uniquely positioned to address the climate crisis through improved energy efficiency, clean energy vehicles and infrastructure, and renewable and zero emission electricity. Two out of three clean energy jobs in Michigan – more than 85,000 in total – are in the energy efficiency sector.
Stabenow said the topic of climate change in Washington can be difficult to get lawmakers on the other side of the aisle to agree. Despite the partisan divide in the Capitol, Stabenow said she plans to continue working to push for legislation geared toward helping the construction industries, as well as agricultural and everyone in between handle the ever-changing climate.
“It’s extremely frustrating that we have folks that want to play politics with science,” Stabenow said.
Excerpts Written by Mikenzie Frost, firstname.lastname@example.org and Morgan Pokora, USGBC West Michigan