Reporting Bill Hudson
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On the Stone Arch Bridge spanning the Mississippi River, environmental studies students basked Thursday under a warm October sun. And for instructor Jean Unzicker, no topic was more controversial than the debate over the science of climate change.
“We do what we can to help them understand the information,” Unzicker said, “the evidence and the arguments [on one side] and the evidence and arguments from the other side as well.”
New research that’s turning heads was done by lead scientist Camilo Mora and students at the University of Hawaii. Their findings were just published in the journal Nature. It concludes that if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to escalate unabated, temperatures across much of the earth will reach unprecedented levels.
In fact, as soon as 2047, just 34 years from now, the coldest years will be warmer than the hottest years of the past.
“Your viewers will be alive then, and their kids, whose futures they’re preparing for, will be very much alive,” said J. Drake Hamilton, a science policy director for the nonprofit Fresh Energy.
Fresh Energy, based in St. Paul, is an environmental advocacy group that is pushing for more sustainable energy use. Hamilton says that while Minnesota has a “Next Generation Energy Act” that requires a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025, the same is needed globally if greenhouse gasses are to be reversed.
The Hawaii study claims that while the tropics will see the first and most severe impacts, Minnesota’s forests, croplands and waters aren’t far behind.
Minnesotans are already experiencing more severe weather extremes, from lengthy droughts to summer storms with excessive amounts of rain.
“There’s got to be an explanation for it, because we’re seeing it every year, more and more change,” said resident Dave Landswerk.
Minnesota is also locked in a costly and challenging battle to control invasive plants and pests that are changing the state’s ecological balance.
“Plants, animals and insects that used to not survive Minnesota’s winters are being able to move into Minnesota and they can be harmful to our crops, and we’re also seeing big changes to forests up north,” Hamilton said.
If the trend continues, Minnesota’s prized boreal forests will change forever as conifers die off and more moderate trees and vegetation take root. Already the state’s iconic moose population is in serious decline, and some suggest it’s at least partly due to warmer and more humid summer temperatures.
“We’ve been around awhile and it’s definitely changing,” said resident Jeanine Landswerk.