Report: Michigan businesses unprepared for severe weather, climate change

Dec 5, 2019 at 9:32 am
A new report says more intense storms and heavy flooding are putting Michigan residents and businesses at risk. - Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock
A new report says more intense storms and heavy flooding are putting Michigan residents and businesses at risk.

Severe weather due to climate change is disrupting global supply chains and putting Michigan companies and the state's economy at risk, according to a new report.

The report by the independent research and education organization Business Forward says in the last five years, the state has experienced 11 climate or weather related disasters that each topped $1 billion in damages.

Business Forward president Jim Doyle says extreme weather affects farmers, manufacturers, and other businesses across the state.

"First, it's reasonable for people in Michigan to be looking around and saying, 'Look, I believe in climate change, but can we afford to fix it?'" he says. "And what this report tries to do is show that we can't afford not to fix it."

The report says Michigan's infrastructure is particularly vulnerable to severe weather events.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the state has 140 dams considered potentially at high hazard and more than 1,000 structurally deficient bridges.

Doyle says severe weather will impact manufacturing companies, which rely on supply chains that span the globe, as well as local businesses.

"It's also bad for small businesses, who are less likely to survive severe weather losses," he says. "And one thing that people in Michigan really need to appreciate is, for retailers, restaurants, and entertainment industries, bad weather — severe weather — can be the difference between a good year and going out of business."

Doyle adds that lawmakers and investors could take simple steps to help buffer industries from some of the effects of climate change.

"For one thing, Michigan should be using more renewable energy," he says. "Each year, Michigan imports $24 billion worth of coal, oil and gas. That's a $24 billion 'buy local' opportunity that could create a lot of jobs across the state."

The future of Michigan's $20 billion annual tourism industry also is at stake. The report notes that Mackinac Island, the Great Lakes Region, and Detroit — the state's three major tourism destinations — all are susceptible to warming and worsening severe weather.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.