Snow over Easter weekend isn’t normal. As a story in the Detroit Free Press this week pointed out, it doesn’t take a scientific consensus to discern that global warming is quickly becoming much more local. New scientific studies from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest that Michigan has reason to be especially worried about both the effects of global warming and its own contribution through carbon emissions to making that issue a pressing concern. With the state’s majestic Great Lakes and wildlife at stake, lawmakers and citizens must work together to counteract global warming and help Michigan become a leader in going green.

Sarah Royce

The effects on Michigan’s ecosystems by a warming planet would be crippling. Demand for freshwater from the Great Lakes will increase sharply as sources of water in the Southwest dry up, potentially causing a drastic dip in water levels at Michigan’s shores. Cherry crop revenues would take a hit if growing seasons were altered by freakish spring cold spells like the one we’re in now.

Various species of animals would face extinction, disrupting sensitive ecosystems and bringing about new and deadly diseases like the West Nile Virus. Even Michigan’s winter tourism industry would suffer if the winters become routinely mild. There are, however, reasonable steps that can be taken to prevent these problems

The Environmental Protection Agency, per last week’s Supreme Court ruling, is now required to deal with greenhouse gases as environmental pollutants. It can’t stop there. It needs to address its current regulations for the auto industry and outdated power plants, two things that Michigan has a lot of. The EPA has the opportunity to be the bridge between a stubborn White House and a stubborn auto industry, and that bridge will be especially vital in Michigan.

Most critical is the willingness of the automakers in Detroit to listen to demands for higher fuel standards. The Big Three can no longer resist tougher fuel regulations as Toyota beats them in both sales and emissions. However, it also falls upon the Bush Administration to stop waffling on the issue and impose meaningful federally mandated emissions standards before it’s too late.

Most importantly, Michigan residents should do their part. Simple acts of conservation can go a long way in reducing the state’s overall carbon emissions. Purchasing efficient light bulbs, turning off unused computers, turning down thermostats or reducing water use are all easy changes that make a huge difference. The minor effort involved in replacing one average light bulb with an efficient spiral bulb saves 150 pounds of carbon annually. Residents can pressure Detroit and other cities for wider use of mass transit too if they dangle their votes under the collective nose of those desperate state politicians.

Michigan’s future is as rooted in fighting global warming as any state in the country. Voters must act to convince lawmakers that the state’s future is at stake. Because it is.

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