Washington Weekly: July 14, 2021
The Past Week in D.C.
On Tuesday, Senate Democrats announced a $3.5 trillion budget plan that they would advance through the reconciliation process along with the bipartisan infrastructure deal, assuming all 50 senate Democrats sign off. The package, which is notably smaller than the $6 trillion plan being pushed by progressives in the party, yet larger than some moderates had discussed, would include funding for top Biden Administration priorities that were left out of the bipartisan deal, including climate change, expanded Medicare, extended child tax credits for poor and middle-income families, among other policies. In a positive sign for Democrats, both liberal Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and moderate Democratic Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) voiced support for the plan. Of course, if a bill does pass through reconciliation in the Senate, it will still have to survive Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the House.
Yesterday, 140 members of the Climate Mayors, a bipartisan group of mayors from across the country — which includes Democrat and Republican mayors from big cities to small rural towns — sent a letter to congressional leaders from both parties calling on them to include aggressive climate measures in their infrastructure legislation. Among the priorities outlined in the letter are infrastructure improvements to limit damage from increasing natural disasters, lead pipe removal, and greener transportation, all with an emphasis on helping disadvantaged communities.
This past weekend saw even more record high temperatures in western states, and California’s Death Valley topped a mind-boggling 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Aside from the extreme dangers of the heat alone, the record temperatures have fueled an unprecedented number of wildfires this early in the season (already toppling last year’s unprecedented numbers).
Nearly 10 billion gallons of sewer water overflowed into Michigan waterways following the June 25 storms and flooding, much of which included raw sewage. The state has pledged to spend tens of millions dollars to reduce flooding on metro Detroit freeways in the coming years, but experts warn that it won’t be nearly enough to solve the problem given the number of 500 year floods in the past decade with no signs of slowing in sight.
Michigan LCV Analysis: What does this mean for Michigan?
Anyone lucky enough to live in our beautiful state knows that Michigan summers are hard to beat. Long days, warm weather, Great Lakes sunsets, camping trips in the Upper Peninsula, Tigers games in downtown Detroit, abundant local farmer’s market produce, an endless supply of Oberon… I could go on. Yet, like so many places, climate change is having a significant impact on our summer fun — and entire way of life.
Last week, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative released the results of a survey concluding that coastal damage from climate change in Great Lakes communities will cost nearly $2 billion over the next five years. Increased fluctuations in extreme high and low lake levels, coupled with more frequent severe storms causing flooding and coastal erosion, mean significantly more infrastructure and climate mitigation measures will be needed in the coming years.
This summer has also seen an increase in beach closures due to high levels of bacteria found on the beaches stemming from stormwater and sewage overflows as a result of flooding. Last week, 16 major beaches across the state were closed as a result of bacterial contamination.
Toxic algae, which is caused, in part, from a warming climate, has been another major contributor to water quality issues and beach closures in Michigan this summer. New studies now show that algal bloom toxins may also be harming air quality around the Great Lakes, perhaps leading to respiratory health issues for residents and visitors.
Perhaps more obvious to many, mosquitoes are especially bad in Michigan this year, stemming from climate-related weather patterns that led to drought-like conditions this spring, followed by torrential rains so far this summer — creating a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, some of which carry potentially dangerous mosquito-borne viruses.
Climate change is even impacting how our kids spend their should-be carefree days of summer — which for many is synonymous with summer camp. This year brings added importance and excitement, as kids return to camp after a year away from their peers due to Covid-19. Increasingly, however, climate change is wreaking havoc on this childhood summer tradition. Jill Laidlaw, a director from Camp Cavell in Lexington Michigan, recently spoke to the New York Times about the difficulties of summer camp against the backdrop of climate change — with hotter days, increased thunderstorms, harmful algae blooms in the lakes, a massive rise in ticks, and more.
Michigan is, undoubtedly, one of the best and most beautiful places to live in our country. And with an ever warming planet, we are seen by many as a potential haven for climate change refugees moving from the south, southwest, and the coasts in the coming years. Still, Michigan is far from immune to the disastrous impacts of climate change, and we must continue to push for significant federal climate legislation in the next few months to limit even worse outcomes and mitigate ongoing damage.
A Deeper Dive
On the theme of the Great Lakes, check out this incredibly interesting and visually stunning article about the impact that climate change is having on the future of Chicago, pitting a great city against a Great Lake.
Lastly, be sure to check out two exciting virtual events taking place tomorrow night:
- Tomorrow at 4pm, Michigan LCV will be hosting a People, Planet, Public Health event with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Oran Hesterman, Founder & CEO of Fair Food Network, and Quiana “Que” Broden, Founder & Executive Chef of the Kitchen by Cooking with Que in Detroit, for a discussion about the ties between healthy food access, sustainable farming, and climate change — as well as the opportunities in Congress to improve our food systems and infrastructure. You can register for this event here.