Air quality in Southeast Michigan has been notably poor in recent weeks, with three Ozone Action Days occurring in June thus far. According to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Ozone Action season began on May 1 in Southeast Michigan. This year is the 30th year of the voluntary program that helps keep Southeast Michigan’s air clean. In 2022, there were five Ozone Action days.
As we’ve discussed in previous posts, clean air is vital to healthy populations, and in Southeast Michigan clean air has been hard to come in recent weeks. The Canadian wildfires have been the easy culprit to blame for the poor air quality, the real root of the problem goes much deeper….climate change.
Wayne State University Center for Urban Studies Director Lyke Thompson further dives into what is causing poor quality in Southeast Michigan in this recent opinion piece published by the Detroit Free Press.
Climate change is multi-faceted in both its causes and effects. In Michigan, and more specifically Metro-Detroit, many of the causes of these drastic shifts in weather patterns are the same across the globe— the continued use and overuse of fossil fuels, increased carbon emissions, desecration of natural resources. What are the effects?
Increased Average Temperature
Temperatures have already risen 2.5 degrees in Michigan. Summers are hotter, and heatwaves are stronger and last longer. Fast forward to 2100, summers in Isle Royale National Park are expected to 11 degrees hotter, according to statesatrisk.org.
The chart below shows just how Michigan’s annual daily temperatures have changed since 1900 and how they are expected to change up to 2100, depending on the amount of emissions we continue to pump into the environment. The observed data is through 2020 and shows that Michigan’s average temperature has increased by nearly 3 degrees (Fahrenheit) over time. According to the data set from The Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), even with lower emissions temperatures are expected to increase in Michigan by a minimum of 3 degrees through 2100. That number could increase to at least 12 degrees though if the emissions we produce increase.
With increasing temperatures that means hotter air, which holds more water. More water means storms produce heavier rainstorms that are slower to move on, meaning greater accumulations of rain.
In 2020 30,000 residents of Southeast Michigan found their homes flooded. Six years earlier, in 2014, there was another great flood—these 100 year events happened within six years of each other.
According to the June 2021 report “Household Flooding in Detroit” by Healthy Urban Waters, in partnership with the Wayne State Center for Urban Studies and others, 43 percent of 4,667 Detroit households surveyed between 2012-2020 reported household flooding. Furthermore, in an online Detroit Office of Sustainability survey published in 2018, 13 percent of those survey reported they experienced flooding very often; 23 percent reported they experienced flooding somewhat often and 32 percent reported they experienced it occasionally. Additionally, a cross-sectional study published in 2016 of 164 homes in Detroit’s Warrendale neighborhood indicated that 64 percent of homes experienced at least one flooding event in during that, with many experiencing three or four events, according to the report.
The map below is a projection map developed by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments group that shows how precipitation is expected to increase in Southeastern Michigan and the middle of the state to about 2.25 inches between 2040 and 2059 with increased emissions. While Southeastern Michigan will face continued potential flooding events, the data prediction also shows that the western side of the state will have a decrease in precipitation.
An Increased Number of Heat Islands
A heat island, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is an area where heat is intensified due to structures, such as buildings and roads, that absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat far more than natural landscapes, such as forests and bodies of water. Urban areas, where these structures are highly concentrated and greenery is limited, become “islands” of higher temperatures relative to the outlying areas. Temperatures in such heat islands can be 1 to 7 degrees higher than neighboring areas. The Detroit metropolitan area contains heat islands.
Heat islands can be problematic, according to the EPA, because they can lead to increased energy consumption, increase the emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases and compromise water quality—all of which just further perpetuate climate change. Additionally, heat islands can have negative effects on human health.
The map below was developed by the CAPA Heat Watch program, through a partnership with the National Integrated Heat Health Information System, NOAA Climate Program Office and the National Weather Service. This map was created from 2020 data and highlights how afternoon temperatures varied depending on the land coverage. For example, on the east side of the City, closer to the river, those areas have greater tree coverage so therefore tend to have cooler temperatures. However, areas with fewer trees, denser residential areas and wider streets have higher temperatures. As noted, this is how heat islands are created and these exist, for example, across the river from Belle Isle and several pockets on the City’s west side.
Less, or More, Ice Coverage
According to the GLISA, the depth of a lake impacts how rapidly ice can form. So with a shallower lake, there is a greater chance of ice coverage. While depth impacts the ability for a lake to freezer over so does temperature, and with temperatures above freezing there is less to no ice coverage. Less ice means moisture evaporates into the atmosphere easier, leading way to increased amounts of snow and rain in Michigan.
Also, according to the GLISA, water temperatures in the fall determine the amount of evaporation from the lake surface because the temperature difference between the air and lake surface temperatures can accelerate evaporation, with warmer water temperatures resulting in greater evaporation. According to the GLISA, “the evaporation removes latent heat from the surface, resulting in a cooling of the surface, and the potential for greater ice cover. For example, if the previous winter experienced low amounts of ice cover (more solar warming), higher evaporation rates (strong cooling effect) during the fall would lead to increased ice cover the next winter. Conversely, cooler water temperatures during fall leads to lower evaporation rates (less cooling) thereby decreased ice cover.”
The effects of climate change on Michigan and Metro-Detroit are apparent with impacts on the daily lives of many. Over the next year we will dig into some of the major contributors to climate change in the region, what policies are being developed to combat the impacts climate change (and how they will work) and what the future of Metro-Detroit may be with a new climate to adapt do.
The consumption and production of nuclear energy is not new in Michigan. In fact, according to the most recent data from Energy Information Administration, Michigan produced more nuclear energy in 2020 than any other kind of energy. At that time, Michigan had three functioning nuclear power plants- Fermi 2, Cook and Palisades. In May of 2022 though the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, which is located on the west side of the state, ceased operations.
Now, however, Palisades’ operations might re-start. Several lawmakers in Michigan want the nuclear plant to re-open, both for energy and economic purposes. On Sept. 9, 2022 Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to the US Department of Energy supporting the new owner of Palisades Power Plant’s (Holtec International) federal grant application to the Civil Nuclear Credit program. This program was established to save “premature” retirements of nuclear reactors due to financial hardships. While Michigan lawmakers, such as Gov. Whitmer, believe the nuclear plant is eligible for the program there are several groups, including the Michigan Sierra Club and Michigan Wildlife Conservancy that believe otherwise.
When the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant closed on May 20, 2022 it closed 11 days early because of the performance of a “control rod drive seal,” according to a press release from the Governor’s Office. It was on May 20 that its fuel supply ran out and the power purchase agreement with Consumers Energy expired. The environmental groups say that the plant isn’t eligible for the federal grant program.
Opponents say ineligibility stems from the fact the plant is in fact retired now, according to the Holland Sentinel, and the program is intended for plants that are still operating. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it has never received a request to return a nuclear plant to the grid after it has been permanently defueled. If Palisades becomes the first this could mean the 600 jobs lost when the plant closed could be brought back.
Proponents say economic development is a factor to consider when seeking to re-open the plant as well as the amount of energy produced and consumed. They argue its long-term effects on Michigan and beyond should also be considered.
Data is not yet available to determine how the closure has impacted the state’s energy production and consumption for 2022, but according to the Governor’s Office more than 800 megawatts of nuclear energy was produced by the Palisades plant on an annual basis. And, as the charts below show, the amount of nuclear energy produced in Michigan is equal to the amount consumed.
According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2021, coal provided the largest share of Michigan’s electricity net generation (32%), followed by nuclear energy (30%) and then natural gas-fired power (27%). The data in BTUs was not available for 2021, but the charts below show that in 2021 316.7 trillion BTUs of nuclear energy was both produced and consumed in Michigan.
In the last 20 plus years the amount of nuclear energy produces, and consumed, has grown slightly (except for a production dip in 2009). In 2000, 196.9 trillion BTUs of nuclear energy was produced and consumed in Michigan, and by 2020 that number increased to 316.7 trillion BTUs. It will decline substantially now with the closing of Palisades, a loss of roughly 800 megawatts.
In Michigan, we consume more energy, overall, than we produce, and the type of energy we produce is more limited than the types of energy sources we consume. For example, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), Michigan does not produce any coal for energy. However, in 2020, according to the EIA, 334.4 trillion BTUs were consumed. The coal powered energy consumed in Michigan is brought in from elsewhere, primarily Wyoming and Montana.
The largest energy source produced in Michigan is nuclear energy, with 316.7 trillion BTUs being produced in 2020. The amount of nuclear energy produced in 2020 is nearly a third more than what was produced in 2000; in 2000 196.9 BTUs of nuclear electricity was produced in Michigan. In the last 20 years, the largest amount of nuclear energy produced in Michigan was 344.2 trillion BTUs in 2011.
In 2020 there were three nuclear power plants in Michigan. However, in May of 2022 one of the nuclear power plants shut down. We will dig deeper into Michigan’s nuclear power next week.
While nuclear energy most recently reigned supreme in energy production totals, at one-point, natural gas was the largest energy source in Michigan. The amount of natural gas energy produced in Michigan reached its peak production at 312 trillion BTUs in 2000. Since then, the amount produced has steadily declined. Between 2007 and 2008 the amount of natural gas produced in Michigan declined from 275 trillion BTUs to 162 trillion BTUs. By 2020, the amount produced was 69.9 trillion BTUs. Overall, between 2007 and 2020 the amount of natural gas produced in Michigan declined by 204.7 trillion BTUs.
In 2020, Michigan ranked 19th in the amount of natural gas produced.
In 2020, Michigan’s primary energy consumption was 2,610.6 trillion British Thermal Units (BTU), the lowest it has been since 1984 when it was at 2,597.4 trillion. This total consumption number is based on all categories of energy, including (but not limited to) coal, petroleum, natural gas and renewable energy sources. Between 1984 and 1999 energy consumption in Michigan continued to regularly increase; in 1999 Michigan’s total energy consumption was 3,227.4 trillion BTU. Since then, Michigan’s energy consumption decreased to 2,610.6 trillion BTU in 2020. In 2020 Michigan ranked 10th in total energy consumption out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia (this includes residential, commercial, industrial and transportation).
The decrease can be linked to several factors including, Michigan’s population decrease, the commercial sector becoming more energy savvy, the implementation and use of Utility Waste Reduction Programs and an overall awareness on energy consumption and its environmental and financial impacts.
However, while energy consumption is declining in Michigan, energy use is still a key factor in everyday life. The chart below highlights some of the key energy sources consumed in Michigan in 2020.
**The data provided in this post is from the to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and can be found here.***
In the State of Michigan, petroleum is the most highly consumed form of energy, according EIA. In 2020, 1,010.9 trillion (BTU)s of petroleum were consumed in the State of Michigan with natural gas being the second highest consumed energy source at 1,003.4 trillion BTUs. For context, , petroleum represents the use of motor gasoline, distillate fuel oil, residual fuel and jet fuel and natural gas is used for heating, electricity and industrial use. One of the largest energy sources produced in Michigan is natural gas.
Coal was the third largest type of energy consumed in Michigan in 2020 at 334.4 trillion BTUs. Although coal is the third largest type of energy consumed in Michigan, coal fired-power plants provide the largest share of the electricity generated in Michigan. However, Michigan has no active coal mines, most of the coal consumed in the state is brought in by rail from the west.
Renewable energy consumption in Michigan is not even half of the consumption of petroleum, natural gas or coal, but there are continuous strides to utilize it as a reliable energy source. Biomass, all together, was the largest consumed renewable energy source in Michigan at 157.7 trillion BTUs in 2020. Biomass includes organic matter such as wood or crop waste. Wind energy is the second largest consumed renewable energy source in Michigan at 59.1 trillion BTUs.
The average life expectancy for Americans decreased in 2020, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and the same goes for Michiganders.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, which is run by the Centers for Disease Control, the average life expectancy of an American in 2019 was 79 years of age and by 2020 that decreased 77 years of age. In 2021, the National Center for Health Statistics reported the average life expectancy of an American decreased to 76 years of age. For Michigan, the Michigan Department of Community Health did not have data for 2021, but for 2020 the average life expectancy of males and females, both white and black, declined.
The first chart below shows that between 2019 and 2020 the life expectancy for females declined from 80.6 years of age to 79.2; for males the average life expectancy declined from 75.7 years of age to 73.6. Prior to the reported 2022 average life expectancy ages, the last times they were as low was in 2002 for females (79 years of age) and 1999 for males (73.4 years of age).
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the top 10 contributing factors to death for those who live in Michigan in 2020 were:
•Heart Disease (117,087 deaths)
•Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (5,644)
•Alzheimer’s Disease (4,860)
•Kidney Disease (1,940)
•And Influenza, Pneumonia (1,880)
The Michigan Department of Community Health publicly presents data on the average life expectancy broken down by both sex and race. As shown above, overall, females have long had a higher life expectancy over males. However, when further breaking down the data, we see that black females and white males in Michigan have had nearly the same life expectancy since 1910. In 2020, the average life expectancy for black females in Michigan was 73.3 years of age, a decrease of 3.3 years from 2019. The average life expectancy of white men in Michigan was 75.3 years of age in 2020, a decrease of 1.3 years from 2019. White females in Michigan experienced a 0.9 decrease in average life expectancy, which was the smallest decrease of the four groups. It was black males who had the largest decrease in life expectancy between 2019 and 2020 in Michigan at 4.8 years; in 2020 the average life expectancy for black males in Michigan was reported at 64.9 years of age. The last time the average life expectancy for black males was that low, or lower, was in 1995 when it was reported to be 64.4 years of age.
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, the top leading causes of death for black males in Michigan in 2020 were:
•Heart Disease (2,430 deaths)
•Malignant neoplasms (1,272)
•Assault ( 512)
Note that assault is not even among the overall the top 10 causes for Michigan citizens overall.
Rising inflation is hitting people all over the metropolitan area. For example, food banks are experiencing increased use, according to local media outlets. In the Metro-Detroit area major food banks include Gleaners Community Bank and Forgotten Harvest; these organizations not only supply food to those in need via their mobile food pantries and sponsored distribution events; they also provide food to soup kitchens, other organizations’ food pantries and other programs. According to MichiganRadio.org, in March of 2022 Gleaners Community Food Bank had about 13,000 visits to its mobile food pantries; the average number of visits in the six months prior to that was about 9,000. Feeding America West Michigan experienced a 34 percent increase in visits between February and March of 2022, according to the April 2022 Michigan Radio. A recent Model D article states that the Capuchin Soup Kitchen experienced a 25 percent increase in visits in the last year. Additionally, the same Model D Media article reports that Forgotten Harvest recorded a 30 percent increase month-to-month between April, May and June of this year. According to the article, Forgotten Harvest served 16,000 individuals in the month of June— 10,400 more than in the same month last year.
The charts below show just what inflation means to the average person. For example, in the first chart below, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of meat, poultry, fish and eggs has increased by 8.4 percent in the Metro-Detroit area between July of 2021 and July of 2022. Dairy has increased by about 20 percent in that time frame and cereal and bakery goods have increased by about 19.3 percent. As we know, not only are food prices increasing but so is the cost of housing, utilities and gas. Gasoline has experienced the largest consumer price index increase in the last year at 63.9 percent.
Another way to view inflation is to understand how the value of a dollar, or $100, has changed. The chart below uses $100 in June of 2000 as a reference point to show inflation over the last 22 years. So, for example, $171.46 today would be the same as $100 in June of 2000. In other words, the purchasing power of the dollar has continually decreased, except between 2008 and 2009. Between 2020 and 2022 the purchasing power of the dollar has had the largest decrease since 2000. Between 2020 and 2022 there was a $21.52 difference in the power of the dollar. What you could buy for $149.74 in 2020 increased to $171.46. And again, these dollar figures are comparable to what $100 would be worth in 2000.
We know that food banks are meeting, and serving, just some of the thousands upon thousands of individuals being impacted by the affects of inflation. However, long-term assistance to such food banks remains unknown, as direct long-term funding from state entities isn’t certain, and with economic concerns growing, donations may decrease. Food pantries serve a vital role in our community, as do programs such as SNAP and the Free and Reduced School Lunch Program. Food insecurity is an issue hundreds of thousands Americans face daily and long-term strategies to create food security need stronger framework and better funding.
Michigan’s unemployment continues to decrease, for the tenth straight month, and the labor force in the state continues to grow. This year is looking much rosier than in 2020 when great uncertainty riddled the state, and the country. With job recovery following the peak of the pandemic, and an increase in revenues from the sales and use tax and federal funding the state is predicting about a $5 million surplus. While such a surplus can viewed as a sign of improved economic times, we must also recognize inflation is on the rise, and uncertainty still looms with COVID and the war in Ukraine. Recognizing that inflation is hitting the homes of most, if not all, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was proposed sending $500 to working Michigan families in attempt to help ease the strain on our pockets. The Republic led majority legislature is discussing a $2.5 billion plan that would cut taxes. What will happen remains unknown, especially as the project surplus is just an estimate.
But the data below does tell that story that Michigan’s economy is on the rise while the costs of goods and services is also on the rise.
Even in the age of the internet, accessibility is limited for many, including in Southeastern Michigan.
According to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), there are about 1.6 billion homes in the seven county region with broadband and about 250,000 without it. In other words about 87 percent of homes in the region have internet and 13 percent are without it.
Access to broadband connectivity is two-fold though.
In a small percentage of the region there is no connectivity. In Southeastern Michigan, 99 percent of homes have access to broadband and 1 percent do not; this equals to out about 1.9 homes having access to broadband and about 10,000 not having access. The first map below highlights where any kind of access to the internet lacks. Each county in the region is affected, with very small neighborhoods in even some of the most populated areas (Detroit, Canton, West Bloomfield, etc.) experiencing some dead zones. However, the more rural areas in the region (north Macomb County, western Livingston and western Washtenaw counties) and several areas throughout St. Clair and Macomb counties) have much larger areas where access to broadband does not exist. While the land area where access is lacking looks large, the population that lives in these areas must also be considered. As noted, overall, there are about 10,000 people who do not have access to the internet due to service not existing where they live.
The first chart below highlights those who are underserved by broadband, which not only includes those who do not have access to broadband at all but also those who do not have access to highspeed internet (meaning they may have access to slower internet that does not allow for extensive streaming, downloading, etc.). St. Clair County has the highest percentage of homes that are underserved at 7.1 percent, followed by Monroe County where 2.5 percent of homes are underserved. Oakland County has the lowest percentage of homes that are underserved at 0.4 percent.
***All data in this post is provided by SEMCOG***
While the existence of broadband infrastructure is a concern, so is overall access, especially for those who have limited access to the infrastructure. The chart below shows the percentage of homes that do not use the internet. Wayne County has the highest percentage of homes that do not use the internet at 19 percent and, conversely, Washtenaw County has the lowest percentage of homes that do not use the internet at 7 percent.
Factors that play into a home being able to obtain broadband include income, age and race. For example, in Wayne County, 49 percent of households with an average income of $20,000 a year or less do not have the internet. This income bracket has the highest percentage of homes without internet across the region. When examining aging groups that data shows that 33 percent of the 65-years-of-age and older population does not have the internet; this is the age bracket with the highest percentage of individuals without access. And, finally, 13 percentage of the black population in Wayne County does not use the internet. Blacks have the highest percentage of non-usage in Wayne County, and in every other county in the region.
According to the University of Michigan, in more than 40 percent of Michigan’s schools more than 10 percent of students struggle with homelessness during the school year. Furthermore, it is believed that even those numbers are under reported in certain areas, including the City of Detroit. Detroit was estimated to have about a 4 percent homeless student rate for the 2020-21 school year, which was equivalent to about 1,700 students according to the US Department of Education’s Center for Educational Performance and Information. However, as noted, it is believed this number is under reported. While Detroit public schools had the highest total number of students estimated to be affected by homelessness, it was the Ypsilanti School District that had the highest percentage of homeless students in the region. According to the data, the Ypsilanti School District had the highest estimated homelessness rate for the 2020-21 school year at about 10 percent, which was equivalent to about 340 students. Oak Park Public Schools had the second highest percentage of homeless students for the 2020-21 school year at about 9 percent, which was equivalent to more than 340 students.
As shown in the maps above homelessness impacts students throughout the region, but those who live in more urban and/or rural districts are impacted more. While the Center for Educational Performance and Information reports the percentage of estimated homeless students, it does not breakdown the age groups most affected. But the 2022 report from the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions Initiatives highlights that most homeless students are teenagers, Black, Native American and/or Hispanic and/or transgender.
This report further breaks down that the percentage of Black, Native American and Hispanic homeless students in Michigan in 2019 was 8 percent, 8 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Additionally, it was reported that about 25 percent of transgender youth in Michigan were homeless, according to the study.
While the data shows there are certain demographics that are more impacted by homelessness than others, it is clear that it impacts thousands upon thousands of students in Michigan—more than 22,000 to be exact. Many of these students are unaccompanied minors who don’t often access homeless shelters, or utilize public services. Policy shifts must occur to not only protect students from homelessness, but also provide greater safety nets for them to access healthcare, nutritional and housing services if they do experience homelessness. This means greater investment into K-12 programs, transitional foster care programs and stronger policies to prevent family homelessness.