Nearly every day brings more news about the unfolding climate chaos in this country and around world. Line 5 transports more than a half million barrels of fossil fuels daily through the Straits of Mackinac every day. This pipeline is years beyond its sell-by date and is gambling with our irreplaceable Great Lakes, fueling the flames of the climate crisis.
We allow this to happen. Line 5 must be shut off to protect our health and economy.
Enbridge wants us to believe that the pipeline would be safer if it was run through a tunnel. Their proposed tunnel is estimated to emit 27 megatons per year of carbon dioxide, compared with a no-pipeline, non-tunnel scenario. This is approximately the equivalent of roughly 10 coal fired power plants and will cause climate damages of around $1 billion annually.
Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure like the Enbridge tunnel strengthens our unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels and makes us vulnerable to a potentially dangerous future. The Enbridge tunnel will be online in 2028. However, we must reduce greenhouse emissions by 50% by 2030 and net-zero by midcentury to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
This is the right moment to say “no”.
Climate change is enabling disasters all across the country and worldwide. As many as 24 hours of rain fell in southeast Michigan, floods devastated communities. This is just one example showing the clear trend towards more extreme rainfall in the region. We also feel the heat. Michigan has warmed almost two degrees in just 70 years. Wild swings and fluctuations in springtime temperatures could threaten sensitive crops such as fruits, while more rainy spring can make fields soggy, which can cause havoc for farmers’ planting plans.
Climate impacts have a frightening impact on elderly and at-risk people. If greenhouse gas emissions aren’t reduced quickly, Michigan and the Great Lakes will see more premature deaths due to extreme heat and declining air quality. Flood disaster recovery costs and agricultural damage will rise.
Saying no to a new tunnel is crucial if we are serious about protecting our residents’ health and preserving the stability of our climate.
To keep climate change under control and limit the rise in temperature, we must reduce carbon emissions by zero by 2050. This is what Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vowed to do so.
We can do it.
More from opinion
The state that has the ingenuity, innovation, and industry to make the world turn can lead the way to a cleaner, safer, more sustainable future for all.
Gov. Whitmer and legislators of both parties are already moving quickly to accelerate investments in clean electric vehicle fuel generation. The federal Infrastructure Act, which is now in effect, sets aside $10 billion to create new jobs, strengthen the middle class, and increase the number of clean energy jobs in Michigan. Clean energy goes hand in hand with energy efficiency. The bipartisan bill includes investments to reduce heating costs for Michigan’s families. The passage of Build Back Better would accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels.
The solution to our energy problems is not in a pipeline or tunnel.
We have the ability and the responsibility to learn from our past and rewrite our future, improving and protecting lives and livelihoods. Michigan can now take action. We can start by closing Line 5, ending our dependence upon fossil fuels, as well as committing to clean, sustainable energy.
Julia Cole is an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at University of Michigan.