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Issues Of The Environment: Tracking Climate Change Impacts In Michigan With UM's Online Mapping Tool

Dec 4, 2019

Dr. Trish Koman, Research Investigator, Environmental Health Sciences, UM School of Public Health.
Credit University of Michigan Multidisciplinary Design Program / umich.edu

Many cities and residents in Michigan have already begun to feel the effects of climate change.  Such changes can damage the environment and public health.  Dr. Trish Koman, a research investigator for the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, and her colleagues have developed the Michigan Environmental Project, an online mapping tool designed to track climate change impacts in Michigan.  She talks about how the project works with WEMU's David Fair in this week's "Issues of the Environment."


Overview

  • Most of the cities in Michigan will be dealing with harsh consequences of climate change, and vulnerable groups who are disproportionately affected by it will continue to do so now and into the future, according to a new University of Michigan study.
  • According to the Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation Program, there are five serious ways that climate change is impacting Michiganders' health.  They are:
    • Heat-related illness and mortality.
    • Exacerbation of respiratory diseases.
    • An uptick in carbon monoxide poisoning and other injuries related to extreme weather.
    • Waterborne diseases from extreme flooding.
    • Vector-borne diseases, like Lyme disease and West Nile virus.
  • The new UM tool, “Michigan Environmental Project," uses a technique adapted from California, in which researchers used publicly available data to create heat stress vulnerability indices, including data about tree canopy coverage, impervious surfaces (roads, sidewalks, and other artificial structures that are water resistant), locations of future climatic temperature increases, and location of populations vulnerable to heat stress. 
  • The “Michigan Environmental Project” tool added layers of data for age-adjusted obesity prevalence, children and poverty geospatial data, and all factors that might contribute to susceptibility and vulnerability to heat stress.
  • According to a report, “Climate Change and Health in Michigan,” (published January 2019 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Ann Arbor's “Ecology Center”) highlights the connection in Michigan between climate change and public health threats like increased extreme heat days that have disproportionate effects on young children, older adults, outdoor workers, low-income communities, and those with chronic illness.  The report predicts that the current trajectory of global carbon emissions is likely to cause, in the Detroit metropolitan area alone, an annual average of 760 excess deaths on dangerously hot days by the 2040s.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu