Ann Arbor lawmakers call for action on climate change
Three state lawmakers from Ann Arbor went on record this week raising concerns about global warming and together issued a call for action on climate change.
Their comments came as dozens of climate change experts gathered for the National Climate Assessment town hall at the University of Michigan.
"The science is clear: global warming is a growing problem, and it's not going away," said state Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor.
As a new state legislator beginning his first term of office, Zemke said he's committed to doing everything in his power to support President Barack Obama and other national leaders in protecting future generations from "the innumerable effects of global warming."
Obama used his State of the Union address Tuesday night to propose a plan for tackling climate change, pointing out the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the past 15.
The National Climate Assessment draft report 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 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.
"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 chairwoman 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," Warren said.
Statewide environmental activists are calling for stronger clean air safeguards to protect public health, the Great Lakes and agriculture in Michigan.
The U.S. Environment Protection Agency is in the process of finalizing a rule to limit carbon emissions from new power plants. Groups like the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Clean Water Action and Environment Michigan support further limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
"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."
Obama said Tuesday night that if Congress won't act soon, he will direct his cabinet to come up with executive actions to take now and in the future to reduce pollution, prepare communities for the consequences of climate change and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
"Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods — all are now more frequent and intense," the president said. "We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it's too late."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who gave the Republican response to Obama's State of the Union, dismissed the idea that the U.S. government could do anything to combat climate change, saying passing a bunch of laws could destroy the economy, but it isn't going to change the weather.
The Ann Arbor City Council took action in December to adopt a Climate Action Plan, a 188-page document that outlines dozens of ways to reduce the community's carbon footprint.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.