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Global warming: urgent with a chance of optimism

REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
The bottom line is that global warming is fueling the extreme weather that we've witnessed, and it will only become more frequent and severe unless we act.

In terms of weather, this summer — even in all of its storm-induced power outage glory — has not been particularly noteworthy; that’s probably because it pales in comparison to the weather antics of 2012. However, as a heat wave scorched a huge swath of the country in mid-July, especially in the Midwest, I was reminded of what’s in store if we continue to act sluggishly in solving our current climate-change trajectory.

Madeline Page

The existence of extreme weather is obvious to Minnesotans. That’s because, according to FEMA data, nearly 100 percent of us live in counties that have been affected by at least one federally declared weather-related disaster since 2007. Last year alone, we witnessed the devastating consequences of unchecked carbon pollution through climate-associated weather events like Hurricane Sandy and devastating droughts here in the Midwest.

The year 2012 brought more than $100 billion in damages incurred from weather-related disasters in the United States, including $100 million from severe flooding in Duluth. It was also the hottest year on record, with more than 34,000 high temperature records set across the country, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In April we also got the unwelcome news that our parts per million (PPM) of carbon in the atmosphere passed the 400 mark.

The bottom line is that global warming is fueling the extreme weather that we’ve witnessed, and it will only become more frequent and severe unless we act.

Some reassurance

Still reeling from more than a year of record-breaking heat, rampant drought and wildfires, and destructive storms, we can be reassured knowing that the last few months have brought a flurry of political and policy action.

Here’s the rundown:

In May, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Solar Energy Jobs Act, which requires a more than 30-fold increase in solar power by the end of the decade. It also sets a goal of getting 10 percent of Minnesota’s electricity from the sun by 2030. This is in addition to the state’s existing renewable energy standard of 25 percent by 2025. The recent solar bill represents yet another step that Minnesota has taken to actualize a cleaner, smarter, and global warming-free future.

On June 25, President Obama unveiled a plan to fight global warming, adding a national commitment to the commitment Minnesota legislators already made.

The president’s plan not only limits carbon pollution from dirty power plants – the largest contributor to global warming in the United States – but also advances energy efficiency, increases the nation’s commitment to renewable energy, ensures that communities are better equipped to prepare for and react to global warming-related impacts, and looks to rebuild American leadership on the global stage.

Responsive to public comments

Millions of Americans have been calling for this kind of bold action. Last year, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first proposed limiting industrial carbon pollution from power plants, more than 3.2 million Americans, and 48,000 Minnesotans, submitted public comments in support of carbon pollution limits.

Now, by confronting our nation’s biggest carbon polluters, the president is showing he’s committed to solving global warming.

President Obama has taken some bold steps in the right direction, and the public will need to continue to show our support every step of the way until we can reduce global-warming pollution to levels science says is safe. Protecting future generations of Minnesotans from the worst impacts of global warming will take all of us working together, and the president’s announcement in June along with local policy finally puts us firmly on the right path.

Expect delays, blocking actions

On the way there, polluters and their beholden congressional allies will do all they can to block, delay, or weaken progress. But given both the scientific and physical evidence of global warming, the vast majority of people across the country know that we must control the largest sources of pollution.

Although the weather so far this summer has proved relatively tame, we need to consider the scope of this calm. Climate change is not in some far and distant future; it is here now. No one action can get us to 100 percent renewable energy and stop global warming. There’s a long road still ahead, but standing together, with Obama’s leadership and that of Minnesota’s leaders, we can build stronger communities and a better environment for our children and grandchildren.

Madeline Page is a recent graduate of the College of Saint Benedict and the federal field organizer for Environment Minnesota, a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.


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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/30/2013 - 09:11 am.

    Just because we have a quiet summer, all is not “normal”.

    The most scary blog page in the world?

    In the Arctic region: record high temperatures (90’s) and enormous fires in Siberia; large methane “burp” detected from Siberia, apparently from melting permafrost (methane is a much more potent “greenhouse gas” than CO2); rapid melting of ice in the Arctic ocean; Arctic cyclone churning apart more ice; retrograde weather systems due to weakening jet stream (not enough temperature difference from Arctic to lower latitudes to power the jet stream so some major weather systems in the US moving from east to west).

    We are running a very big experiment right now with our one-and-only earth, and no-one knows how or when it will tip. But from the references at that one blog, it will tip sooner in this century rather than later.

  2. Submitted by rolf westgard on 07/30/2013 - 01:11 pm.


    Current weather events are not more unusual than in the past. The reason damages are higher is because we have built more stuff in harms way.
    The summer of 1936 saw MN temperatures of 105 for ten days in a row. Hurricanes like Camille(1969); Andrew(1971); florida Keys (1930s) were all Force 5 etc, etc. Tree ring data shows Southwest droughts much more severe than recent ones.
    A bold move from the President would be unpopular carbon taxes. Instead we get technology boondoggles like heavily subsidized wind, solar, and corn ethanol.
    The only way the administration is attacking pollution from coal based power plants is natural gas with fracking and carbon emissions. The effective way is nuclear, but the President is scrapping the Yucca Mountain facility for spent fuel. His energy and climate programs are a tragic joke.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 07/30/2013 - 04:08 pm.

    Let’s see …

    Saint Benedicts, eh? I guess I can scratch them off my list of reputable schools.

    • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 07/31/2013 - 07:54 am.

      Really, because this young women has a different opinion on this issue than you, you dismiss her college – you truly are a small man.

  4. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 07/30/2013 - 04:09 pm.

    Keystone, Keystone, Keystone!!

    “Now, by confronting our nation’s biggest carbon polluters, the president is showing he’s committed to solving global warming.”

    Hopefully soon B.Obama will approve the Keystone Pipeline!!

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/02/2013 - 03:17 pm.


      Hopefully he won’t approve it. Why do we need to ship the oil around the world? Wouldn’t it be better if it was kept here in North America?

  5. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 07/30/2013 - 08:59 pm.

    The fossil fuel industries are highly subsidized

    Three of the pipelines connected to the Keystone XL pipeline will receive between $1 billion and $1.8 billion in accelerated depreciation for tax purposes. That’s just one subsidy.

    Oil coal and all the extraction industries rely on cheap leases to public lands that nowhere pay the taxpayers for the true cost of the coal, oil or gas extracted.

    Like all industries which ultimately depend upon political influence to make their billions and trillions, the fossil fuel industries externalize the health, safety and environmental costs to the public. The electric companies don’t pay to clean up the PCB’s which contaminate our rivers, lakes and streams. The President’s policy of carbon sequestration is the right idea but I question if it is even doable. We need a carbon tax to reverse the subsidies from fossil fuels and extractive industries to develop wind and solar and fund the research to develop other forms of renewable energy, like fuel cells, or energy conservation.

  6. Submitted by on 07/31/2013 - 10:30 am.


    Dr. Larry Vardiman (scientist and physicist) of the Institue for Creation Research says:

    “One possible scenario may be found in a recent series of articles by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Marsh, cosmic ray specialists from Denmark, who have shown an indirect connection between galactic cosmic ray (GCR) intensity and global temperature.7,8,9 They are studying the influence of the Sun on the flow of GCR to Earth. The Sun’s changing sunspot activity influences the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth permitting more GCR to strike the Earth during high periods of activity.

    When the Sun is active, the intensity of GCR striking the Earth is increased, causing more ionization in the atmosphere, creating more carbon-14, and possibly creating more cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). This increase in CCN, in turn, appears to create more low-level clouds which cool the Earth. When the Sun is quiet the GCR intensity striking the Earth is reduced, allowing the Earth to warm. Svensmark and Marsh have shown a striking statistical correlation between sunspot activity and global cooling and warming over the past 1000 years.

    The recent rise in global temperature may partially be due to current low solar activity supplemented by a recent increase in carbon dioxide concentration measured at Mauna Loa. The connection which still needs further study is the production of CCN and clouds by GCR.”

    There is a good deal of science showing that global warming is not mad made. Yes, we still should have pollution controls, as we already do, but not to the extreme because it will unnecessarily hurt business.

    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

    Babu G. Ranganathan
    B.A. Bible/Biology


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