What’s At Stake For Metro Detroit’s Environment In 2021?

Even though political division and public health are taking center stage at start of new year, climate change will persist as a serious issue in Michigan and beyond.

It’s a new year, and while there is a lot happening in politics and public health nationwide, climate change continues to be one of the biggest issues of our time. From wildfires in California to flooding here in metro Detroit, the climate crisis is at our doorstep as a nation. President Joe Biden has assembled a large and diverse climate team to begin aggressively working towards improvements in many areas of the environment, coinciding with federal regulatory efforts in need of reform. However, at this point, the effects of climate change are already playing out and will intensify as time goes on.

Aaron Mondry is a local freelance journalist, who recently wrote a piece for the environmental newsletter Planet Detroit about climate change in the year ahead. 

“Detroit won’t experience the worst effects of climate change… (but) the climate crisis will leave no corner of the globe untouched.” — Aaron Mondry, Journalist

Mondry says that in southeastern Michigan, there will be more extreme weather events, more precipitation and more heat. As far as the two biggest issues plaguing this region, Mondry points to flooding and increased heat. Flooding, according to Mondry, can and will continue to cause property damage. Detroiters living in Jefferson Chalmers are already seeing the effects of this, which can be attributed to both increased precipitation and rising water levels. 

Extreme heat will continue to impact vulnerable populations like young children and seniors.  Mondry says that cities “are susceptible to the heat island effect,” noting, “every year a handful of people die from heatstroke and that number is only going to increase.” He also points out that as temperatures rise, air quality will continue to be an issue impacting respiratory health as toxins and contaminants tend to linger in the air for longer on hot days. 

Ultimately, Mondry says that while “Detroit won’t experience the worst effects of climate change… the climate crisis will leave no corner of the globe untouched.” He adds, “climate change is a global problem that will require global solutions.” However, he says that there are some things that can be done at the local level.

Mondry points to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which has undertaken a variety of initiatives to reduce flooding through the allocation of millions of dollars toward green stormwater management and incorporating new medians throughout the city of Detroit. He also adds that the City of Detroit and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed temporary dams at Belle Isle to respond to flooding issues there. Mondry notes that the City of Detroit has committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and improving air monitoring efforts through enhanced federal funding. The Detroit Climate Action Plan, which was unveiled a few years ago, encourages building resiliency through things like healthy food access and home repair programs. 

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