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Minnesota engages citizens on climate change

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news Duluth, 55802
Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

Minnesota state agencies on Wednesday unveiled a new climate change effort aimed at moving residents off the sidelines and into action.

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“Minnesota and Climate Change: Our Tomorrow Starts Today,” was released at the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board meeting in Duluth and will be available starting today at the Minnesota State Fair’s Eco Experience building.

The 28-page catalog outlines what scientists believe is behind global climate change — namely human-caused greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide — and goes on to explain what everyday Minnesotans can do to make a difference.

The catalog also describes what’s at stake if changes aren’t made — including a warmer, stormier Minnesota that would have vastly different flora and fauna than it does today.

EQB officials and Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon noted that Minnesota set goals in 2007 to reduce carbon emissions, including a 15 percent cut by 2015 and a whopping 80 percent by 2025. But the state is nowhere near meeting those goals.

Now, state agencies are combining efforts to spur citizens, organizations, corporations and entire sectors of society to change habits.

“This report is designed to engage the public on how climate change is impacting the way Minnesotans work, live and play. It spans across various sectors of the economy and provides examples highlighting progress and opportunities,” said Megan Eischen, spokeswoman for the Environmental Quality Board. “We want to open up the conversation on climate change.”

The catalog suggests ways to reduce carbon footprints by changing transportation habits, eating locally produced food, recycling, composting and increasing energy efficiency at home as well as big-picture efforts like reducing the need for coal-fired electricity.

Minnesota spends $13 billion annually on fossil fuels, none of which are produced in the state, officials noted. Moving any of that energy to locally produced solar, wind or biofuels produce here will help boost the state’s economy.

Tom Landwehr, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and a member of the Environmental Quality Board, said the task at first blush appears overwhelming. Even if all Minnesotans make a personal effort to reduce carbon emissions, it won’t be enough to slow the impact of global climate change, Landwehr said,

“But we still have to try,” Landwehr added.

“We may still have a vibrant natural environment in 50 years, but it’s going to be different ... and personally I kind of like what I have now,” he said.

Landwehr said the increased frequency of so-called 100-year floods, for example, is changing the way water moves across the state, affecting lakes and rivers but also groundwater. The state’s forests are also predicted to change, he noted.

“We can sit by and watch what happens or we can help shape what happens,” Landwehr said. “We need to be looking at what we should be putting back on the ground (after fires or logging) to establish a forest that’s resilient to climate change going forward.”

The Environmental Quality Board was meeting in Duluth to discuss how the city is rebuilding a resilient community to adapt to climate change after the June 2012 flood, as well as hear about other regional effects of climate change on Lake Superior and northern forests.

Copies of the catalog can be downloaded from www.eqb.state.mn.us.

Also on Wednesday, the National Wildlife Federation in Minnesota released a report outlining a suspected increase in unwelcome pests thanks to a warming climate, including disease-carrying deer ticks, algae in lakes, poison ivy in forests, stink bugs that wreck gardens, tiger mosquitos that carry viruses and winter ticks — a parasite blamed for reducing the state’s dwindling moose herd.

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