After yet another summer of crippling drought, it is clear that extreme weather is hitting close to home. And if it feels that weather is hitting with more strength and more often, you might be right.
Since 2007, federally declared, weather-related disasters in Minnesota affected more than 5 million people in a state with a population of about 5.4 million, according to “In the Path of the Storm,” an Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center report.
In 2012, Duluth experienced the worst flooding in recorded history, with millions of dollars of damage to local infrastructure. Later that summer one of the worst droughts on record hit Minnesota and the Midwest.
That same year the United States experienced its hottest year in recorded history. And Hurricane Sandy, one of the costliest disasters in U.S. history, devastated parts of the East Coast. Scientists say global warming will increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like these.
The largest source of carbon emissions
A new report from the Environment Minnesota Research & Policy Center, titled “America’s Dirtiest Power Plants,” reveals that America’s power plants are responsible for more than 40 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions, making them the single-largest source of carbon pollution in the country. The report finds that in Minnesota, our five largest power plants emit as much global warming pollution as nearly 5.5 million cars.
Moreover, the Environment Minnesota report finds that if the 50 dirtiest power plants in the United States were a sovereign nation, they would emit more carbon than all but 6 other countries.
Xcel Energy’s Sherburne County Plant, or “Sherco,” is the largest carbon polluter in Minnesota and the 21st highest carbon polluter in the country, producing as much global warming pollution as 2.7 million passenger vehicles, according to the report.
Fortunately, there is a solution: We can harness the wind and the sun, make our buildings smarter and more efficient, and slash our dependence on the dirtiest sources of energy. In fact, Minnesota is already making progress with our Renewable Energy Standard and new solar energy policies. Investing in clean energy not only cuts pollution, it also creates local jobs for Minnesotans and attracts clean energy investments to our state.
But there is more to be done. Despite being the largest contributors to global warming, power plants still face no federal limits on their carbon emissions.
Scientists say that developed countries like ours must cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 85 percent by 2050 to protect our kids and future generations from the worst consequences of global warming.
Broad support for limits on power-plant pollution
Americans have already submitted a record-setting 3.2 million public comments in support of limiting carbon pollution from power plants, including nearly 50,000 from Minnesota. Hundreds of elected officials, business leaders, and sportsmen have voiced their support for reining in the biggest polluters.
Now, it’s time for action. This summer, President Barack Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to limit carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants. The EPA has already proposed a major new rule to limit carbon pollution from new power plants.
But coal companies and their allies in Congress are gearing up to fight to protect their pockets. That’s why it’s critical that state leaders like U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken speak out strongly to support the president plan to tackle global warming.
Global warming’s worst impacts will be felt by our children and grandchildren. But crippling drought and devastating floods are a problem for our time. Failure to act wouldn’t just be a betrayal of future generations – it would be sticking our heads in the sand.
Michelle Hesterberg is the federal field organizer for Environment Minnesota, a statewide, citizen-based, environmental advocacy organization. John Abraham, Ph.D., is a professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas, where he researches climate monitoring and renewable energy generation for the developing world.
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