Get busy on climate change, speakers urge

‘Convening’ held in Burnsville

sunthisweekAn evening of climate change action talk in Burnsville May 12 got an inspirational lift from a local ninth-grader who won’t take hopelessness for an answer.

Anna Bertch, of Nicollet Junior High, said it’s easy to feel powerless in a world of 7 billion people to change its dangerous climate trajectory.

“Franklin D. Roosevelt said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” said Anna, who made a 60-second public service video last year that won honors in a School District 191 contest and the Youth Voices of Change film contest sponsored by the Will Steger Foundation and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“If I could speak on a huge intercom to the whole world, I would say, ‘Do not be made still by the idea that you can’t make a difference. Things are not solid. Reality is not immovable. We as humans are very easily influenced, and when our perspectives change, so does the world.’ ”

About 80 people attended the climate change “convening” Tuesday night at Diamondhead Education Center. One of a dozen being held around Minnesota, it was hosted by the Steger foundation (now called Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy), the city of Burnsville and Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191.

The event also featured a resource fair — with groups ranging from Lakeville Friends of the Environment and District 191’s environmental committee to the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Dakota Electric Association — and post-meeting workshops.

“It’s your turn now to decide what you’re going to do next,” said Kristen Poppleton, Climate Generation’s education director.

John Abraham, a University of St. Thomas thermal sciences professor and climate change activist, presented an overview of human-induced global warming since the Industrial Revolution, which he called “settled science” that was first postulated in 1896.

Each of the last three decades was warmer than the previous 1,400 years, Abraham said. Earth shows the “fingerprints” of man-made greenhouse gases, such as nights warming faster than days and winter warming faster than summer, he said.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen from less than 320 parts per million in 1960 to 400 today, according to Abraham. In the United States, coal-generated power and the burning of motor fuel are the biggest contributors, he said.

Some of the consequences are already apparent, such as more extreme weather incidents and more severe droughts, he said.

“Can you imagine what it’s going to be like in 2100?” Abraham said, referring to a chart showing global temperatures escalating rapidly in the future compared with historical rises.

Consequences of climate change, he said, will include lower crop yields, especially in areas of subsistence farming; ocean acidification; redistribution of water; and more extreme weather, with fewer but stronger hurricanes.

Change is possible “without sacrificing economic growth,” Abraham said.

He called on people to push for tougher emissions standards and reduce their own emissions caused by driving and home energy use.

Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz kicked off the event, saying that her city was an “early adopter” of environmental stewardship. Burnsville adopted a wide-ranging sustainability plan in 2009 and has exceeded the steps proscribed by the state to be christened a GreenStep City, she said.

As president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2009, climate protection was “one of my top agenda items,” Kautz said.

In District 191, two years of energy-conservation and waste-prevention efforts with help from the Minnesota GreenCorps led to creation of a full-time green schools liaison position, said Taylor Hays, who holds the job.

Environmental activities in the district include a monthly staff newsletter and the Battle of the Buildings, in which district schools compete to notch the most positive environmental changes, Hays said.

Speakers also included Muhammad Jiwa, a graduating University of Minnesota senior and organizer with Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, who has worked with mosques on energy conservation and retrofits; and Andy Holdsworth, leader of the state Department of Natural Resources Climate Adaptation Team, who discussed efforts to restore Minnesota’s declining cisco fish population.

Read the full article online here.

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