Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
As most of our readers will be aware, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that said in no uncertain terms that the world needs to act immediately to stave off catastrophic warming in the face of storms, drought, ecosystem disasters, and immense human costs. The report was not surprising, but it serves as a wake-up call for anyone still sitting on the fence when it comes to the need for dramatic action on climate.
The report was backed by exhaustive, peer-reviewed, well-established science. It was not hyperbolic, and not without hope, but it laid the stark costs of continued inaction to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And it called for governments around the world to act immediately and decisively to break the dominance of fossil fuels and protect the planet. Major Minnesota newspapers, including the Star Tribune and the Mankato Free Press, published editorials calling for Minnesota and the nation to heed the report’s warnings.
In the environmental community, we’ve known this was coming. We’ve worked to educate lawmakers and convince them to take ambitious action. We’ve raised public awareness of the problem, and of the fact that solutions exist that will make our communities healthier and safer.
There have been some positive steps, like the Minnesota Clean Cars standard and the investments in the new federal infrastructure bill. A federal Clean Electricity Standard may soon be forthcoming from Congress as part of the appropriation bills under consideration, championed by Senator Tina Smith. But while these steps are positive, they are not going to get the job done. We need to go further.
Minnesotans are ready for a change. A poll conducted by Climate Nexus and released earlier this year by MN350 shows that two-thirds of Minnesotans support legislation to achieve a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate impacts in our state became perhaps more visible than ever on July 29, when Minnesota suffered the worst air quality in recorded history due to Canadian wildfires caused by drought. The entire state has been parched by these hot, dry conditions. Worsening weather patterns are anticipated to threaten our drinking water, air quality, and native species even more in the coming years.
Now, we need our state leaders and lawmakers to catch up and start treating this crisis like the top priority it is. An examination of the official social media pages of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation shows that only Senator Tina Smith and Representatives Angie Craig, Betty McCollum, and Ilhan Omar have made posts regarding the IPCC report since it came out, as of this writing.
Actions, of course, speak louder than words, but those have been limited as well. The Walz Administration continues its refusal to halt the Line 3 pipeline, even in the face of chemical spills and its monumental climate impact as a long term investment in new fossil fuel development. We call this a Giant Step Backwards. Minnesota does not have a comprehensive public plan for rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuels, just a patchwork of policies that move too slowly and institutions that cave far too readily to what fossil fuel companies want.
This is no time to wait around for other states and countries to take the lead, because there is no time. We need Minnesota to lead on all aspects of climate action – transportation, electricity, agriculture, and buildings – and stop digging the hole deeper by allowing fossil fuel infrastructure to be built or continue to be propped up.
In the coming months, MEP and Minnesota’s environmental community will push state and federal leaders to chart a course forward away from fossil fuels as Minnesotans demand. Protecting our future must be priority number one.