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2017 Sustainability Progress Report


Climate variability and change present some of the greatest challenges in human history. To address this challenge, U-M researchers are developing solutions for mitigating climate change and adapting to it in ways that minimize adverse impacts on human and ecosystem health.

  • +50% The amount toxic emissions by U.S. manufacturers fell between 1992 and 2009
  • 33% of parasite species may be extinct by 2070

Best time for better bulbs

A study from U-M researchers published in the fall recommends replacing all incandescent and halogen light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED bulbs in households. But when it comes to existing CFLs and LEDs, it may be best to wait until LEDs use even less energy and are even lower in cost before making a swap, researchers said.

Previous studies had noted that LEDs reduce spending on energy over time and are a cost-effective alternative to other light bulbs but did not look at the best time to replace an existing bulb.


Offshoring pollution to poor countries

Manufacturing plants in the United States are creating less pollution as the production of more goods has shifted to low-wage countries, according to researchers from U-M and Shanghai Jiaotong University.

An analysis found that toxic emissions of major air pollutants by U.S. manufacturers fell more than half between 1992 and 2009, despite significant growth in real U.S. manufacturing output. The cost to comply with environmental standards in the U.S. costs hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Less-developed countries spend very little and avoid stricter policies that may slow economic growth.

Changing climate and parasite loss

Parasite species – tapeworms, ticks, and others pests – are one of the life groups most threatened by the Earth’s changing climate, according to a global analysis by researchers including U-M ecologist Nyeema Harris. In fact, up to a third of parasite species may be extinct by 2070, the analysis found.

Harris was part of a team of 17 researchers in eight countries that spent years tracking down the exact geographical source of tens of thousands of parasite specimens, including a flea she plucked from a black-footed ferret, one of the most endangered carnivores in North America.