The climate crisis is now escalating uncontrolled and will have major consequences for all societies, economic sectors, and ecosystems. This “climate emergency” is not just rhetoric, it is an identifiable scientific fact based on a vast body of evidence, and observable in all levels of society and geographic regions. The threats from abrupt and irreversible climate change means we must take immediate action from all sectors.
The Midwest is a global leader in manufacturing, agriculture, and other resource-intensive industries. Midwest states emit 32% of US greenhouse gases (GHG). If these states were one country, that country would rank number five in the world, between Russia and Japan. Significant reductions in our region could have a huge impact on limiting climate change.
For Minnesota, the climate crisis will have significant impacts. We have four major ecological regions: aspen parklands, prairie grasslands, deciduous forest, and coniferous forest. Evidence is mounting that tipping points – points at which an ecosystem can no longer cope with environmental change – are underway globally and regionally. Incremental change in the global record translates to an amplified change in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Minnesota has been trying to address climate change for the last 15 years. In 2007, goals were set to reduce GHG emissions 15% by 2015 and 30% by 2025. But we have lagged. Between 2005 and 2018, Minnesota saw only an 8% reduction while nationally there was a 13% reduction.
By state, Minnesota ranks 24th in lowest CO2 emissions, just ahead of Georgia and Louisiana and just behind Arizona and Alabama. During all this time, public and private entities have launched plans and actions to address the challenges. But much of this activity has underachieved results.
The good news is we are seeing signs of increased mobilization and investment in change. Sixteen Minnesota cities recently declared a climate emergency and many others have undertaken climate action planning. Stillwater has done neither yet, but our organization is working to change that. Also, more and more private sector initiatives are underway. We have many solutions available already in clean transportation, energy and buildings, resilient communities, regenerative agriculture, forestry, and more.
How we react to the climate crisis now will shape life on this planet for centuries to come. As this crisis escalates, air pollution, extreme heat, floods, drought, and other ecosystem threats will disrupt our environment, economies, and communities. To deny this emergency is willful ignorance and injustice to present and future generations. The stakes and the extremely short timetable make it imperative that we maximize our individual and collective actions, starting now. We must not only walk the talk but run as fast as we can.
Written by Timothy Nolan, Former Long Time State Sustainable Development Expert
Sustainable Stillwater MN is a 501c3 nonprofit made up of volunteers who are making a difference in the health, sustainability, and resilience of our community.