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Grand Rapids prepares for climate change

Grand Rapids, MI
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
(Left to right) Missy Stoults, Mayor George Heartwell, Michael Davidson, and Haris Alibasic

Grand Rapids is one of only a handful of cities in the U.S. picked to participate in a new program to prevent potential damage to life and property because of climate change. It's the only city in the Midwest that's participating. The rest are in Arizona, Florida, and Massachusetts.

Michael Davidson is the Midwest regional director of ICLEI, an organization of local governments in the U.S. pushing for sustainability. While Michigan is not short on fresh water, Davidson says the region is feeling the effects of climate change. "Ships are having a difficult time pulling into Great Lakes ports these days because lake levels are down and now we have to dredge the ports, which is enormously expensive," Davidson said. Davidson also notes extreme heat waves reported in the Midwest put more people in danger of dying each summer.

The new program provides data driven feedback on what the city's long-term vulnerabilities are. It also loans its sustainability experts to help create a plan to take steps to prevent losses to property and life.

Grand Rapids was named most sustainable mid-sized city in the nation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It has the most LEED certified buildings per person in the U.S.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.