Friday, January 27th, 2023
Friday, January 27th, 2023

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Minnesota House committee considers climate issues, solutions

St. Paul — In 2019, the House added “climate” to the title of a committee traditionally devoted to energy. Two questions have been a key part of the group’s discussions ever since: How is climate change affecting Minnesota, and what can the state do about it?

At the Jan. 4 meeting of the House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy
Committee – its first – those topics were addressed by Heidi Roop,
director of the University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership.
She said the state is getting warmer and wetter, with winters showing
the greatest changes. She and Jamie Beck Alexander, director of Drawdown
Labs, proposed some changes they say could slow the process.

“Scientists like myself rarely use terms like ‘unequivocal,’” Roop said. But she
said scientific evidence is indeed that, when it comes to greenhouse gas
emissions being the source of climate change.

Roop said the biggest producers of greenhouse gases in Minnesota are
transportation and electricity generation, with agriculture, forestry,
and land use not far behind. Between 2005 and 2018, all three sectors
have reduced their emissions in the state, with electricity generation
making the most progress (29%).

But we’re still “missing our targets” in reducing emissions on a statewide scale, Roop said.

The state’s average annual
temperature is up 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, she said, while
winter lows in the northern third of the state have risen 7.3 degrees
Fahrenheit, and 6 degrees in central Minnesota, she said.

Roop also said that by mid-century, the state is projected to experience
somewhere between five and 25 more days with temperatures above 90
degrees each year. Saying that 10 of the state’s wettest and warmest
years on record have occurred since 1995, Roop warned of the effects
that extreme heat and increased precipitation could have on health,
infrastructure, and the economy.

So what can be done? Roop advocates for more resilient infrastructure to
prepare for the changes, and by 2050 the state should substantially
reduce emissions and balance them with carbon storage in landscapes,
such as increased forestation.

Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake, suggested that the state’s grasslands
should also be a point of focus, something with which Roop concurred.

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