On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an accord among 197 nations aimed at preventing the global temperature from rising more than 2ºC. Although the withdrawal process will not be complete until late 2020, many are concerned about the impact this action might have on efforts to address climate change.

To further discuss the role of policymakers in addressing climate change, our June 2017 #UMichChat brought together three local experts: Sarah Banas Mills, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, who conducts public opinion surveys to gauge attitudes about climate and energy policy; Chip Smith, a member of the Ann Arbor City Council, who sits on the Ann Arbor Environmental Commission; and Frank Szollosi, the Manager of Great Lakes Outreach Campaigns for the National Wildlife Federation, who communicates climate change risks to regional policymakers.

Planet Blue, U-M’s sustainability initiative, also joined the conversation to provide additional information about these efforts and how students can get involved.

Our panelists agreed that climate change is largely caused by human activity. Small decisions we make every day, such as how to commute to work or what to eat, contribute to fossil fuel emissions, deforestation, and energy consumption. NASA cites these as factors contributing to the “greenhouse effect”, which is the warming of earth’s atmosphere. Increasing global temperatures have both long- and short-term effects on the health and safety of our ecosystems and our citizens.

As these effects become more pronounced, many believe that regulations are needed to curb harmful activities and encourage citizens to live more sustainable lives. What role do policymakers play in addressing climate change?

The Paris Agreement was generated after years of negotiation, and was based on international recognition that climate action is necessary. The U.S. federal government’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has left some wondering how, or if, this action will impact efforts to address climate change.

An update from the National Surveys on Energy and Environment, co-authored by panelist Sarah Mills, shows that many citizens want state governments to address climate change when the federal government fails to do so. The city of Ann Arbor has done just that.

The city of Ann Arbor and the state of Michigan have environmental policies in place to address climate change, but our panelists agree there is room for improvement.

Our panelists believe that successful implementation of these policies creates jobs, bolsters the economy, protects our ecosystems, and makes Michigan a safer place to live.

Although addressing climate change might seem like a daunting task, U-M students can make small changes to their everyday lives to contribute to the cause.

Most importantly, it’s not too late to address climate change.

Due to cross-promotion from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy; and Planet Blue, this chat reached an audience of nearly 250,000 people. In the days leading up to and following the chat, the #UMichChat hashtag was used 261 times by 41 unique Twitter users, garnering more than 6,800,000 timeline impressions.

We are pleased with the outcome of this chat, and we look forward to having more discussions about the issues important to members of our community. If you missed this conversation, you can check out our archive on Storify.


This post was written by Mackenzie Francisco, UMSocial Intern. #StaySocial with her on Twitter @mackenzie_fran