Press Release

New Report: Climate Change Is Having Devastating Impacts on Public Health in Michigan

Ivan Moreno
imoreno@nrdc.org, 312-651-7932
Alexis Blizman
alexis@ecocenter.org, 734-369-9281

LANSING, MI — Climate change is endangering the safety of Michigan’s water, threatening the air quality, and increasing unnecessary harm and death from extreme heat, rain, and insect-borne diseases, according to a new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ecology Center. The report includes recommended actions to curb carbon pollution and address health impacts caused by climate change at the state level and coincides with Gov. Whitmer’s announcements that Michigan is joining the U.S. Climate Alliance and is creating a new office of climate and clean energy.

“Communities across Michigan are already feeling the concrete economic and health impacts of climate change. If we are serious about improving lives today and for years to come, every sector of the economy needs to transition to cleaner resources.” said Ariana Gonzalez, NRDC senior policy analyst. “The good news is a clean energy transformation will create both a healthier Michigan and stronger economy.”

The report, “Climate Change and Health in Michigan,” highlights the connection in Michigan between climate change and public health threats like increased extreme heat days that have disproportionate effects on young children, older adults, outdoor workers, low-income communities, and those with chronic illness. The report predicts that the current trajectory of global carbon emissions is likely to cause, in the Detroit metropolitan area alone, an annual average of 760 excess deaths on dangerously hot days by the 2040s.

“Vulnerable communities are at the front lines of the harms of climate change. Our state must also ensure that communities and health departments have the resources they need to deal with present-day health threats,” said Alexis Blizman, Ecology Center policy director. “The new Deptartment Of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy must be coordinated across agencies. We must take aggressive steps to mitigate climate impacts. Last week’s life threatening cold clearly demonstrates the need for more warming centers, but also for large investments in energy efficiency to reduce the amount of energy we need, and for diversifying energy generation with more renewables, so that we don’t face another potential energy shortage during increasingly severe weather events.”

The Ecology Center has worked with health care professionals to create awareness about the public health implications of environmental issues including climate change that endangers the health of Michiganders. These threats will only increase in the absence of comprehensive changes in a state that has a ten percent higher asthma rate than the national average. Smog will increase with hotter summer days, worsening asthma throughout the state and disproportionately affecting low-income communities located near pollution producers.

In addition, the weather extremes that pollute the Great Lakes and hurt food growers create breeding grounds for mosquito and tick populations and the illnesses they carry such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Effects are especially severe in areas with combined sewer and stormwater systems, those that rely on well-water, and lower income communities struggling with aging infrastructure.

“We are already seeing an increase in insect-borne illnesses, which can have long term and deadly health impacts,” said Sharon Gadoth, RN, a nurse at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center, Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor. “As a cardiac care nurse, I have seen patients with cardiac complications of Lyme disease often in young people which can be severely debilitating.”

The report identifies several key opportunities for coordinated action to curb carbon pollution and address health impacts caused by climate change in Michigan. Many of the options are underway in the state such as renewables, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles development.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment.  NRDC  has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at  www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter  @NRDC.

Ecology Center is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization established in 1970 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Ecology Center develops innovative solutions for healthy people and a healthy planet in four primary areas: Environmental Health, Sustainable Food, Energy & Climate Change, and Zero Waste. This work is accomplished through educating consumers to help keep their families healthy and safe, pushing corporations to use clean energy, make safe products, and provide healthy food, providing people with innovative services that promote healthy people and a healthy planet and working with policymakers to establish laws that protect communities and the environment. For more information visit www.ecocenter.org and follow @Ecology_Center

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