From the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association – Where Every Story Has Three Sides
By Will Steger, Arctic Explorer and President, Will Steger Foundation
Dear Wedge Residents,
As a Minnesotan, I am proud of our state’s can do spirit. It helps give us the ability to overc
ome challenges that may seem impossible. When I was a kid this spirit is what first inspired me to be an arctic explorer. This spirit also compels me to take a stand in the face of a crisis. Right now there is a crisis brewing over the future of the arctic, and right here in Minnesota.
Climate change is not speculation or a theory; over the past 25 years I have seen it with my own eyes. As an explorer I have seen first hand how glaciers, which seemed so vast and imposing have shrunk or disappeared in a short amount of time. For instance, in 1990 I crossed Antarctica, including the Larsen Ice Shelf which is now almost completely gone. The Larsen A shelf disappeared in 1995 and the Larsen B shelf collapsed in March 2002 after one of the warmest summers on record.
The Ayles and Ward Hunt Ice shelves in Canada’s High Arctic of Ellesmere Island have disintegrated. The Ward Hunt was where I left for the North Pole in 1986, and now no expedition can reach the North Pole without some form of flotation. Greenland is now seeing running water on the top of the ice cap, and the summer sea ice on the Arctic Ocean has lost half its thickness and surface area in less than a decade.
The connection between climate change and melting ice caps is very simple. Right now pollution from factories and cars around the world is collecting in our atmosphere and increasing the Earth’s temperature. These rising temperatures are causing the pack ice to melt in the arctic.
The effects of climate change are not confined to the arctic. Here in the U.S., climate change means more intense hurricanes, longer droughts, and other potentially catastrophic changes to our weather in the years ahead. In Minnesota, climate change will bring hotter summers, heavier blizzards, and the potential for flooding from more driving rainstorms. We already saw the impact in 2012: the flood in Duluth, the drought in our agricultural areas, hot temperatures in the Twin Cities, and the fires near my hometown of Ely, Minnesota.
Although climate change is a serious threat, there is time to take action. Dealing with this challenge, which may seem impossible, holds many great opportunities for Minnesota farmers, workers, and businesses. Minnesota’s communities hold the key to fighting climate change by implementing locally owned renewable energy. Addressing climate change gives us a unique opportunity to balance our commitment to protecting the environment and creating new jobs.
Six years ago, our state took a big bipartisan step to cleaner energy and a stronger economy, proving that we can create thousands of jobs. But our work is not done.
Now, we have an opportunity to take the next big step forward – transitioning to clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power, increasing energy efficiency, and making it easier to generate local power.
We are working to support increasing the state’s Renewable Electricity Standard to 40 percent by 2030, establishing a solar energy standard of 10 percent by 2030, and a series of policies that will make providing local power generation easier and more cost effective, as well as advancing building and industrial energy efficiency initiatives.
Wind energy provides up to 3,000 direct and indirect jobs in Minnesota. Meanwhile, more than 100 businesses already exist throughout Minnesota in the solar industry. Implementing a solar energy standard will create over 2,000 permanent jobs in the first year after the standard is passed, and thousands of jobs over the life of the policy. The 10 percent solar energy standard would also help put solar on more than 200,000 rooftops across the state, making it easier for the average Minnesotan to be an energy producer, not just a consumer.
Meanwhile, energy efficiency investments create more jobs than equivalent investments in fossil fuels. The U.S. in 2010 had at least 830,000 jobs related to energy efficiency, and that number is increasing at 3 percent per year.
The thousands of educators, students and youth that we work with through the Will Steger Foundation recognize that we must take measures to rapidly advance a clean energy economy in order to secure a healthy and prosperous Minnesota for their generation. Youth are the moral imperative for action. There is no denying climate change is a threat we have to face. Now is the time for us to summon our can-do spirit and face this crisis and I am confident that we can.
If you want to get involved in the Minnesota Clean Energy and Jobs Campaign, visit www.cleanenergyjobs.mn. If you are an educator or youth leader, we have opportunities for you to get involved! Visit http://www.willstegerfoundation.org.
The Will Steger Foundation is educating, inspiring and empowering people of all ages to engage in solutions to climate change. Learn more at http://www.willstegerfoundation.org.