Lansing’s extreme weather last summer underscores need for climate action


State Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou (District 75) represents East Lansing and portions of Clinton and Shiawassee counties in the Michigan Legislature.


The catastrophic storm that devastated Greater Lansing this summer tragically took the lives of several people in our community, knocked out power for tens of thousands of families and caused millions of dollars in property damage. It’s just the latest example of increasingly extreme weather here in Michigan and across the country.

Make no mistake: Climate change is to blame. It’s easy enough to understand how a warming planet is causing hotter temperatures, but climate change is also leading to an increase in other types of extreme weather events, like wildfires, floods and ice storms. Scientists have also linked an increase in heavy downpours to climate change.

The bad news is that extreme weather is likely going to get worse. Emergency department visits due to extreme heat are projected to increase from 1,200 to 7,800 per year by 2070. Detroit is expected to see 255 deaths a year from extreme heat between 2020 and 2029, a number that will likely increase to 701 by the end of the century. And it’s not just our health that’s at risk: Climate change will cost Michigan an estimated $5 billion a year by 2100.

The good news? We’re not helpless in this fight. Fossil fuels got us into this mess, but clean energy will get us out of it. Thanks to a clean energy boom, we’re already on track to lower emissions beyond what we thought was possible a year ago.

The Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by President Biden last year is an historic investment in driving our nation toward a clean energy future. The president’s plan has already sparked 270 new clean energy projects that will create 170,000 new jobs across the nation. In Michigan alone, a total of $21 billion worth of investments in clean energy projects and 15,856 new jobs have been announced.

Michigan has long been a manufacturing hub, with more than half a million state residents working in manufacturing. Many of these new clean energy jobs will be union jobs in construction or manufacturing that won’t require a four-year degree. These are good jobs you can raise a family on. Apprenticeship programs will help boost wages for these workers by up to $300,000 over the course of their careers. 

And yet, despite the fact that more than half of the new jobs created nationally are in Republican congressional districts — and despite the extreme weather that has plagued states across the country all summer — Republicans in Congress have tried to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act no fewer than 25 times.

At the first Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee, candidates called climate change a hoax, urged drilling and fracking and claimed that the Inflation Reduction Act only benefits China. Vivek Ramaswamy went so far as to claim that “more people are dying of bad climate change policy than actual climate change.”

These are outright falsehoods that don’t represent where many Republicans, especially young Republicans, stand on climate change. Young voters in both parties see climate as a top issue.  A recent Data for Progress and Climate Power poll found that two-thirds of voters say “the impacts of climate change and extreme weather are kitchen table issues in my household.”

The fact is that wind and solar now cost less than coal, oil and methane gas. In the first five months of 2023, wind and solar power generated more electricity than coal for the first time ever. And the growing use of clean energy is expected to lower energy bills for the average family by $1,000 each year.

In the Michigan Legislature, my Democratic colleagues and I are working to pass our Clean Energy Future plan, which includes key measures to combat climate change by accelerating our state’s transition to clean energy and building a more resilient grid to reduce power outages caused by extreme weather. Clean energy policies will save Michigan families money while creating jobs and protecting our health and the environment. We have nothing to gain by regressing to our fossil fuel past.


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