Act Locally to Slow Global Warming

A business leader shares why he’s devoting his days to forming a Michigan movement to promote clean energy.

This guest post is part of the Traverse Magazine series “For Land and Water.” Subscribe for more about environmental preservation efforts in our communities.

What does a person do when the world’s climate scientists tell us the planet is warming at an alarming rate, the ice in the Northern Hemisphere is melting rapidly, and severe weather events like hurricanes and wildfires are occurring more frequently, yet our national and state governments are unwilling to respond to these alarming conditions?

“I am not a scientist,” say many who are confused by or deny climate change. I am not a scientist either. I am a former venture capitalist and Executive in Residence at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where I taught for 20 years. But I trust science and the many scientific studies that tell us we must act now if we are to slow the rate of warming. I also trust my own experience with rising temperatures, threatened agriculture, erratic weather events, worsening algae blooms in the Great Lakes and other signs of climate change that we’re seeing in Michigan.

We can’t take the chance that climate change may not be real, and we must begin to act now if we are to slow the rate of warming. If the scientists are wrong and we have tried to halt the rate of warming unnecessarily, we will have made the planet cleaner, our communities healthier and our economy stronger by creating a new renewable energy industry and more jobs for Michigan. If they are right, we have a very short window in which to transition fully off fossil fuels.

So what can I do about this critical issue that is not being addressed by our governments? I decided to turn to what I know best, and help to build a cutting edge organization to work for a stable climate. In 2015 I helped to bring together a number of Michigan’s environmental organizations, businesses, and concerned citizens and we agreed to form the Michigan Climate Action Network (MICAN). We set the ambitious and necessary goal to get our state to 100 percent renewable energy before 2050.

MICAN is working to achieve this goal by building a broad and diverse network of citizens who are concerned about climate change and wish to help drive positive change in Michigan. We also developed a strong communications program with emphasis on social media to reach as many people across our state as possible and elevate the issue of climate change to be a top issue in Michigan.

Additionally, we are advancing local clean energy initiatives, following the lead of cities like Burlington, Vermont, where they have achieved 100 percent renewable energy for their entire community, and are saving millions of dollars as a result. Last December, we helped get Traverse City to pass a goal for 100 percent of the city’s operations to run on renewable energy. Working through our network, we are now supporting community efforts in cities around Michigan that were motivated by the Traverse City goal to set their own ambitious renewable energy goals.

I am proud of the way our website and social media have delivered Michigan climate information, events, and challenges to a broad cross section of our population, and I am proud of the progress we’re making in communities. The more communities that take action now, the easier it will be for our public officials to make the kinds of public policy decisions necessary to protect our great state and beyond from the negative consequences of climate change.

There is much more work to be done, and we can’t do this work alone. But with the cooperation and collaboration of the state’s environmental groups, businesses, and support from a growing number of Michigan citizens, we can make a difference.

Thomas S. Porter is co-founder of Michigan Climate Action Network.

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