Minnesotans demand leaders act now on climate change

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week saw a tremendous groundswell in climate advocacy in Minnesota at a moment when the impacts of our changing climate are becoming more and more visible. On Saturday, September 8,  People’s Climate Movement – Minnesota and allied organizations hosted the Rise for Climate, Jobs, & Justice Summit in Minneapolis, where more than 600 attendees heard from speakers, discussed climate justice issues, and learned how to make change (see photos and video of the summit here.) The event centered on the ways in which the climate movement intersects with racial justice, labor, civil rights, and youth participation. And Minneapolis wasn’t the only city to participate – people in Minnesota cities including Duluth, Winona, and Willmar held their own events, along with cities around the world.

Then on Tuesday, September 11, a group of Minnesota students and partnering organizations launched the Minnesota Can’t Wait campaign, aimed at demanding that Minnesota leaders take action on climate change. The campaign centers on a petition, submitted by the student leaders, that asks the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to develop a rule to regulate greenhouse gas pollution, and on a public petition to Governor Dayton to take immediate action on the issue. It stresses the urgency – becoming more and more evident – for Minnesota to take action on climate change. (To support the campaign, we encourage visiting their website and using the hashtag #MNCantWait on social media.)

The costs are adding up

The devastating weather events of the last year show why Minnesota, the U.S., and the world can’t afford more delay on climate action. As of this writing, the southeastern coast of the United States is being bombarded by Hurricane Florence, which has already damaged thousands of homes, cut off power for hundreds of thousands of people, and produced unexpectedly powerful flooding. This comes on the heels of a report that found that around three thousand lives were lost in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria, making it among the most lethal disasters in U.S. history. Closer to home, Minnesota and Wisconsin have seen so-called “hundred year” storms strike with increasing regularity, producing floods in June and July that damaged dozens of communities, even as wildfire smoke from Canada triggered air quality alerts across the state.

While it’s true that many factors produce torrential storms, the science is clear: warmer temperatures are making storms wetter and worse. And though the southeastern states have borne the brunt of catastrophic rainfall exacerbated by climate change, Minnesota can expect to see rising costs – these floods are only the beginning. The only state where temperatures are rising faster is Alaska. It’s clear that without immediate action, the safety and way of life of Minnesota’s five and a half million people will continue to be threatened by climate change.

What to do about it

There is no silver bullet to mitigate climate change in Minnesota. But that’s a reason to take stronger action, not weaker. Among the actions we can take:

  • As stated in the Minnesota Can’t Wait petition, Minnesota can find ways to regulate or put a cost on carbon emissions to ensure an equitable transition from fossil fuels.
  • We can invest our resources in clean energy sources like wind and solar (and reject new fossil fuel infrastructure) to grow our economy and ensure that it is powered affordably and sustainably.
  • We can continue to make improvements in energy efficiency, electrification, and public transportation to fight all types of air pollution.
  • We can spur the growth of crop systems that put living cover on the land for the entire year, removing carbon from the atmosphere while improving our water and soil.
  • We can invest in resilient infrastructure, including stormwater management that uses native ecosystems to absorb water, to help protect our cities against floods.

With an election less than two months away, our state’s leaders should listen well to Minnesotans’ message: we can’t wait any longer for effective climate action.

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