Local View: Votes denying human-caused climate change alarming
On April 24, the Minnesota House passed an amendment affirming the predominant scientific conclusion that humans are a "key cause of climate change." "The Legislature finds and declares that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities are a key cause of climate change," the amendment read.
The passage of this amendment and the conclusion contained within it likely were not surprising to most people. However, what might surprise you is that it was anything but a landslide vote. In fact, votes were largely along party lines. All 75 Democrats and four Republicans supported the amendment. The remaining 50 Republicans voted against the amendment.
Why would the overwhelming majority of Republicans vote in this manner? One might argue the amendment had strings attached to it or that it significantly altered proposed legislation. It did not. It was an amendment attached to a larger bill that was stated precisely as stated above.
The amendment was an attempt by our state Legislature to acknowledge that humans are the primary cause of climate change in order to help shape future legislation. It would force legislators to consider the potential impacts on our climate when crafting our state's laws, and it would encourage them to act for the common good.
The belief that human activities have and continue to cause climate change is not solely a theory of Democrats. NASA, one of the leading scientific agencies in the world, clearly states a similar belief on its website: "Most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the "greenhouse effect" — warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space."
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of international scientists, similarly concluded: "Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic (originating in human activity) emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history."
The belief in human-caused climate change is so prevalent that 195 members of the United Nations, including the United States, signed the Paris Agreement on climate change. However, President Donald Trump later announced his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement in 2020.
With their amendment vote, Minnesota House Republicans chose to join Trump in denying the consensus expert opinion on climate change. In fact, during the amendment debate, Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, went as far as stating, "Human activities are not the cause of climate change. We were at one point in an ice age. This is fake."
Statements such as these, like the amendment votes cast by 50 Republican legislators, are alarming. The citizens of our state can reasonably expect our elected leaders to make rational decisions that promote the common good. Basing legislative decisions on poorly supported and anecdotal evidence should cause us to question the leadership abilities of those individuals.
Despite the votes of the House Republicans, legislators still have an opportunity to enact this amendment into law. The climate change amendment will now be voted on by the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate. Let us hope our senators base their votes on the predominant scientific conclusion about climate change. After all, that is what they were elected to do.
Blane Tetreault of Duluth works in college admissions, served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and has worked as a marketing professional and college football coach. He is an active community member who promotes the practice of sustainable living called "permaculture." He also recently began practicing the Danish concept of hygge.