Climate change is real, happening now, and is affecting people in every state, declares the third National Climate Assessment Report.
Released May 6, it is one of the most comprehensive studies of climate change impacts in the United States, examining every region in America and across major sectors of the U.S. economy. The results are clear: Climate change is not a distant threat but is visible today—including in Minnesota, the third-fastest warming state.
We need to act responsibly to combat these threats to our economy, protect the health of Minnesotans, and improve the quality of life for our kids and grandchildren.
The assessment was written by hundreds of scientists and unanimously approved by a 60-member advisory committee that included NASA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the USDA and the Department of Health. This broad, nonpartisan group concludes that global warming “is primarily due to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.”
Scientists report climate change will increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including heat waves, droughts, heavy downpours and floods, causing erosion, more frequent algae blooms in our lakes, and adding to costs to maintain our transportation and infrastructure.
With a vast majority of Minnesotans living in urban areas with aging infrastructure, Minnesota’s cities and suburbs are particularly vulnerable to climate change-related flooding and heat waves.
We’re already seeing impacts of extreme weather now. Heavy downpours have increased by 37 percent in the Midwest, and Minnesota has seen four 1-in-1,000 year floods in less than 10 years. According to Bob Johnson of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, extreme weather events have made Minnesota one of the top three states in the nation in catastrophic losses, increasing homeowner premiums in Minnesota by almost 270 percent. That’s expensive weather.
The good news is there are many sensible steps we can take, and Minnesota leaders have already begun planning for climate impacts and transitioning to a cleaner economy.
In November, state leaders hosted a conference with more than 200 Minnesotans focused on preparing our economy to adapt to climate change. The speakers explored the costly impacts climate change is already having on public health and safety, transportation, and agriculture and opportunities to address these impacts.
The Minnesota Department of Health is working to support young children and the elderly with respiratory illnesses like asthma, who could suffer more frequent hospitalizations during heat waves, and working to address more cases of tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease.
Minnesota needs to ensure that we’re not just preparing for more expensive climate impacts, but are addressing the problem at its biggest source—coal-burning power plants.
Smart bipartisan policies have put our state on a clean energy path that is strengthening our economy and creating healthier communities while cutting carbon pollution.
For example, every electric utility is meeting its share of Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard—generating at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity from new renewable energy by the year 2025.
Now is the time for responsible national action that supports Minnesota’s successful work to cut the pollution that’s harming our economy.
In June, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose the first limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants.
In Minnesota, coal-burning power plants are responsible for the biggest share of the emissions causing climate change, and have operated for many decades without the kind of commonsense, reasonable limits we have set on soot, arsenic, and mercury pollution.
Cleaning up dirty power plants is the strongest step the nation can take to protect our state’s economy from the harmful effects of climate change.
This article first appeared in May 2014 in the St. Cloud Times.