The Dec. 22 article about how Minnesota ranks first in the nation for charitable giving according to WalletHub reinforced my belief that our citizens are some of the most philanthropic — giving generously of their time and finances to worthy causes that keep our communities strong and vibrant. It also confirms that many Americans admire us for this characteristic.
Over a 40-year faculty career, and during my public engagements with communities across the state, I sensed clearly that most Minnesotans take pride in their community and care deeply about the quality of life in this state. Giving their time and resources voluntarily is seen as a responsibility and point of pride.
But this reputation is incongruent with our statewide approach to dealing with climate change. The same edition of the Star Tribune contained a front-page story about the high variability of our snow seasons, as well as the general loss of consistent snow cover for winter recreation. This story and many others in recent years document that our climate is changing at a remarkable pace and with real consequences to our natural resources, as well as our societal infrastructure.
Throughout the latter part of my career I tried to present the case that the climate is changing so fast it is difficult to keep up and quantify scientifically. We recalculate means and extremes for our climate statistics every decade, and the changes in these numbers are astonishing. This is the reason I wrote two editions of the “Minnesota Weather Almanac” (Minnesota Historical Society Press) within a 10-year period. We are setting new daily records (both in temperature and precipitation) at a prolific rate.
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have shown that climate change is more evident in Minnesota’s recent data than in most other states in our nation. All of our measurements (many by wonderful volunteers) substantiate this. There is not a corner of Minnesota unaffected by the changes in climate in recent decades.
Consequences are mounting up. The challenge to adapt to climate change and find ways to mitigate the future pace of change is just as important to preserving the fabric of our great Minnesota community and way of life as our philanthropic efforts are. It is a “seize the day” opportunity for us to unite as a broad community and lead the nation in climate adaptation and in incentivizing, strategizing and deploying climate mitigation.
Thanks to the Environmental Quality Board, which recently hosted the Minnesota Environmental Congress in Mankato, there is some emerging leadership at the state level (and in Gov. Tim Walz himself) to help coordinate and share climate adaptation and mitigation strategies across various citizen groups.
Operating at another level and for a longer period of time is the Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership (MCAP), which involves many managers of state agencies, local units of government, citizen groups, nongovernmental organizations and businesses who are responding to climate change in a responsible manner, seeking to deploy strategies to adapt to changes, as well as advocating for behaviors that help mitigate future climate change (like conservation measures and more use of renewable energy sources).
MCAP has been nurturing a statewide community of climate adaptation practitioners for over 12 years. This group and ones like it operating at all levels of community within our state are trying to remind us of who we are — a people who care for each other, care for our state’s natural resources and want to preserve a decent quality of life for our descendants through maintaining and improving our infrastructure.
The next MCAP Statewide Conference will be held on Jan. 22 at the University of Minnesota Continuing Education Center on the St Paul Campus. If interested learn more at www.wrc.umn.edu/news-events/climateadaptationconference.
The U describes the conference: “Expected changes in Minnesota’s climate and weather require organizations to develop adaptation strategies that are responsive, nimble, and efficient. This annual conference brings together citizens and representatives from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to inspire and encourage greater implementation of climate adaptation practices in communities throughout Minnesota. The focus of this year’s conference will be Crossing Boundaries — Sparking Collaboration.”
Mark Seeley is professor emeritus, and former extension climatologist at the University of Minnesota.