Friday, January 3, 2014

Minnesota climate change II

Today's "heat wave" has triggered a follow up to yesterday's posting about Minnesota's regional planning and climate change. I know, it seems silly to be concerned with global warming when the Governor is closing schools next Monday due to low temperatures. On the other hand, I went back to check some of the information available to and for Minnesotans since mid-2009. That was long enough ago that we shouldn't be surprised if we're asked whether we've looked at it yet. That's when the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report Confronting Climate Change in the US Midwest. They devoted several pages to Minnesota. Key findings are: Toward the end of the century, if current pollution trends continue, projected effects in the state include:

Scorching summer
Scorching summer          © harrington

  • Far more scorching summers
  • Dangerous storms and flooding
  • New threats to agriculture
They go on to suggest some solutions such as:
  • increasing energy efficiency and conservation in industries and homes; (in my opinion, we're making progress in industries, but not nearly enough in homes) 
  • boosting the use of renewable energy resources such as wind power, advanced biofuels, and geothermal energy; (we're moving ahead on this front but could, I think, do more)

    Minnesota renewable energy
    Minnesota renewable energy        © harrington

  • improving vehicle fuel efficiency and reducing the number of miles Minnesotans drive; (the US has addressed the vehicle fuel efficiency for now; The Metro Council could do a lot to reduce vehicle miles driven with their regional plans) and
  • improving agricultural practices to reduce the release of heat-trapping emissions from soil tilling and fertilizer applications. (I don't have a lot of hope for this since we're still trying to get agricultural practices to meet their share of water quality standards on a voluntary basis.)
Before you start fussing that we can't afford it and it will cost jobs, read the part of the UCS report (page 10) where they write about the Midwest saving $8.2 billion in 2030 by following these strategies.

That sounds to me an awful lot like better development instead of just more development. Why am I beating on this issue repeatedly this year? First, because this is the time to get local and regional and state governments to actually start to address climate change. Second, within the past year or so, Minnesota's Environmental Quality Board, in the Environment and Energy Report Card, wrote: there is still considerable social and political debate about climate change – about its causes and the appropriate responses. If our EQB is concerned about political debate about climate change, we, the citizens of Minnesota, need to lead our politicians to a point where they won't tolerate inaction on strategies that improve the environment, create jobs and save money. Jessica Greenbaum seems to have a sense of how we ended up here.

For You Today

By Jessica Greenbaum 

Of course there is a jackhammer. And a view, like Hopper,
but happier. Of course there is the newspaper—the daily
herald of our powerlessness. Easy go, easy come: thwash,
the next day another, an example of everything that gets done
in the dark. Like the initiative of the crocuses from a snow
that was, as it works out, warming them. Or in this case,
the strange October weather warming them. There were the
conclusions we jumped to. To which we jumped. There was
pain, and then there was suffering. Of course there was my
ambition to offer you the world, but one that I have rearranged
to make sense. Here are all the sensations of being alive
at the turn of the twenty-first century, here’s how they ring out
against each other, here’s how one brings out the sense of
another, here is the yellow next to the fathomless blue.

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