Category Archives: Climate Change/Science

Tuesday, Nov 27, Take Action for the Climate

The Environmental Quality Board is holding public meetings across the state of Minnesota to gather input for the statewide Environmental Congress in March. Tuesday, November 27, is the only date of a meeting in the Twin Cities. It will be held at Normandale Community College from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.

This is a critical opportunity to deliver a clear message to state leaders about the need for  immediate action on the climate. Luckily for Minnesotans, we can make one simple request:  “Implement the Next Generation Energy Act.” Signed into law in 2007 by Governor Pawlenty (R), this Act is quite possibly the most progressive climate change legislation in the nation but it has been languishing, unimplemented. We need the current Administration and legislature to move this forward.

Key Points of the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007

1. Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

  • Relative to 2005 base levels, the state must cut greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2015, 30 percent by 2025 and  80 percent by 2050.
  • The state must derive 25% of its total energy from renewable power sources by 2025 (“25 by 25″).
  • No large fossil fuel-fired power plant can be built in Minnesota.
  • No utility can import electricity from a large fossil fuel-fired power plant built in another state that was not operating on Jan. 1, 2007.

2. Energy conservation: The law contains a five-part conservation and efficiency strategy, including establishing a statewide energy conservation goal of 1.5 percent of annual retail electric and gas sales.

3. Community-based energy development: The law overhauls the state’s existing energy development statutes.

An added benefit to implementing this existing law is that such significant changes in our energy infrastructure will create a large number of new jobs. Job creation is Governor Dayton’s primary focus so this message should be well received.

“Implement the Next Generation Energy Act!”

Spread the message. This soundbite must be repeated consistently to our elected officials at this and other Citizen Forums scheduled around the state:

  • Rochester: Wood Lake Meeting Center, Nov. 27, 9:30 a.m. – 12 noon
  • Duluth: Lake Superior College, Nov. 28, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Worthington: Worthington High School, Dec 10 – 3:30 – 6:00 p.m.
  • St. Cloud: Stearns County Service Center, Dec 12 – 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Moorhead: Minnesota State University, Dec 14 – 3:00 – 5:30 p.m.

Bill McKibben’s New Math Should Mean Action

Doomsday Clock: We have 5 minutes to change the world

Since 1947, the world has lived with a Doomsday Clock telling us how close we are to annihilation of all life on this planet. Before 2007, that time was based on the likelihood of nuclear war. Since 2007, that clock includes the impact of climate change.

Bill McKibben’s article on climate change, appearing in the July 19, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone magazine — “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” — is one of the most important articles you will read this year.

In it he explains that the planet has experienced a 0.8 degree (Celsius) increase in average global temperature (hotter in some places, colder in others). And now that we’ve gotten the ball rolling, it won’t stop there. We’ve triggered a feedback loop of thawing permafrost and polar ice melt that will release even more greenhouse gases. Scientists say the feedback loop will result in (at least) another 0.8 degree temperature increase, regardless of the actions we take.

Knowing the impacts that climate change is already making (see the Climate Vulnerability Monitor), world “leaders” agreed in Copenhagen to limit climate change to 2 degrees of hell. However, they did so without any actual plan to achieve that limit.

McKibben likens that agreement to playing Russian roulette with 5 bullets in the gun.

  • The first bullet hurtles toward island nations like Kiribati, which cannot survive rising sea levels. But it’s not just island nations that will disappear, so too will inhabited low-lands, areas along the ocean coasts, the city of Venice, the lowlands of Holland.
  • The second bullet will hit nations whose water supply is dependent upon seasonal snow and ice (notably parts of China, India and the American West), which will suffer increasing desertification.
  • The third bullet — heat — stresses food crops, drives massive wildfires and kills plant and animal life. We’ve already seen catastrophic corn crop failure throughout the U.S.
  • The fourth bullet — torrential rains and cyclones — will hit in old, familiar places, like Bangladesh, with increasing frequency and intensity. But we’re seeing the consequences of torrential rainfall even in Minnesota, where “once in a lifetime” floods now come every few years.
  • The fifth bullet hits when plant and animal life that cannot adapt as quickly as humans begins to disappear. We may think we can live without polar bears, but just how many animals and plants can we really live without?

World “leaders” found this price acceptable, in exchange for the ability to continue burning fossil fuels and conducting business as usual. Unfortunately, the Obama administration seems to have backed off even this very minimal agreement. The U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, has said that countries should pick their own goals without any internationally agreed upon requirements. In essence, allowing some to do nothing.

Those in the Transition community might once have hoped that decreasing oil supplies would keep climate change in line. McKibben makes it clear that there is enough oil, gas and coal in the ground to load that last bullet in the gun, with ammunition to spare. We cannot count on luck – or on the promise of technology – to save us. We must actively choose life.

Read Bill McKibben’s article.
Understand what this means.
If you find it too distressing, find a supportive community in which you can begin to engage the problem of greenhouse gas emissions in positive and meaningful ways.

Whatever you do, please don’t read it and then think you’ve done enough.

Irrigation-Free Landscaping Workshop

Some of the effects of global climate instability are increasingly violent storm activity as well as high temps and droughts. Many north Longfellow homes are already challenged by occasional basement flooding during heavy storms and it’s not uncommon for water to collect in the street when the sewer system becomes overburdened from heavy rains. Landscaping can help both of these problems – providing a way for rainwater to stay on the homeowners property and out of the sewer, and minimizing the impact of drought and water needed to maintain plants in the yard.

On Saturday, July 28th, from 11:00 am to noon, the landscape design firm PRAIRIEFORM will lead a workshop on irrigation-free landscaping for residents of the Longfellow neighborhood. Irrigation-free landscaping combines drought-tolerant planting techniques and “drought training” for plants. It creates a landscape that does not require supplemental watering and that minimize rainwater runoff from a property while still providing an animal- and people-friendly yard. The irrigation-free landscape is formal enough to fit in a front-yard setting.

The workshop will be held in a yard on the northeast corner of 28th Street & 42nd Avenue. This is the location of the irrigation-free landscaping pilot project the neighborhood undertook last year, with funding from the homeowner, the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and LCC’s Environment & Transportation Committee.

If you’d like to attend, please RSVP (appreciated but not required) to Spencer: or call 612-722-4529 ext. 5.

Study Finds 10% of Newborns Around Lake Superior with High Mercury Levels

The Minnesota Department of Health has released the findings of a two-year study of mercury levels in the blood of newborns along the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The results?

Ten percent (10%) of newborns in Minnesota had unhealthy levels of mercury in their bloodstream. They had suffered environmental poisoning before they even had a chance to take a breath. (Three percent of Wisconsin newborns had unhealthy levels of mercury. None of the newborns in Michigan were affected.) Continue reading

Speak Up! How To Talk About Climate Change

Is there someone you’ve been wanting to talk to about climate change but you’re worried that you don’t have all the facts or won’t be able to answer their questions? Cool Planet is having a speaker training on Sunday, November 20, from 3 to 6 PM at  Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave, St. Paul. Fee of $10-25  but no one will be turned away if they can’t pay. Register online or call 952-920-1547.

Dr. John Abraham from St. Thomas University will be talking about the science of climate change and then Dr. Christie Manning (Handbook of Sustainable Behavior) and Craig and Patricia Neal (Art of Convening) will talk about HOW TO TALK.  I haven’t met the Neals but I’ve heard Christie speak and what she’s got to say is very interesting.

I can’t make it on the 20th but if you go, I’d love to hear from you.


September Sustainability Events

As summer winds down and Minnesotans try to fit EVERYTHING into our last month of warm days, September weekends get booked up fast. Here’s some events that should get on your calendar.

THIS Saturday, September 10Parade of Chicken Coops: 10:00AM  to  4:00PM. This is a self-guided tour of volunteers eager to show you how chickens fit with urban agriculture. Thinking of getting chickens? Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply is a one-stop shop for urban chicken-keeping.   

NEXT Friday, September 16 — The Longfellow Sustainability Group Movie Night & Potluck: We’ll be showing “Power of Community, How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.” The U.S. embargo of Cuba and the downfall of the Soviet Union disrupted oil supplies to Cuba, causing massive disruption in systems of transportation, work and food production. People were going hungry. But this island nation showed tremendous character and caring in how it tackled the problem of forced “peak oil” and took care of its people. This is a really uplifting movie. Hope we see you there!

Moving Planet - Moving Beyond Fossil FuelsSaturday, September 24 – MN350 Rally: People around the globe are gathering on September 24 for Moving Planet – a worldwide rally to demand solutions to the climate crisis. In Minnesota, we’ll be meeting at the State Capital to tell our legislators it’s time to move beyond fossil fuels. Minnesotans are particularly vulnerable to the coming climate crisis because of our temperature extremes — more snow means more floods, more days over 100 degrees with high humidity could mean deaths from heat. We need action! (350 is the parts per million of carbon that scientists say is safe for our atmosphere. We’re at 394 – and going up.)

Sunday, September 25 — Tour of Minnesota’s first eco-friendly cemetery, Prairie Oaks: The tour begins at 3. Address is 8225 Argenta Train, Inver Grove Heights, MN. Call 612-250-2655 to learn more.

Saturday, October 1 — Solar Tour: It’s called a solar tour, but it includes other forms of renewable energy as well. This is a self-guided Tour of 50+ homes, businesses, and institutions that have incorporated renewable energy, from geothermal heat pumps to wind turbines to the many incarnations of solar energy.

Mark Your Calendar – Move the Planet – September 24

Moving Planet: a day to move beyond fossil fuels

On September 24, thousands (we hope) of Minnesotans will gather at the State Capitol to MOVE THE PLANET toward 350 parts per million (carbon, that is).Sept 24 for Moving the Planet

  • Learn about the urgent need to move beyond fossil fuels
  • Inspire each other, our elected officials and the public about the positive steps we can take to transition to a renewable future

2pm – State Capital Lawn
Resource tables to educate and inspire, music, art projects, kites and frisbees and general fun until folks arrive.

3pm – Mass Ride and Interfaith Procession (Moving Planet – Moving Faith)
at the Capitol lawn.  Bikes will stream in from one direction, the interfaith march from the other.

3:15 to 4:45 Program examining climate change from moral, scientific, local and global perspectives. Inspiration to action with music, dance, and spoken word)

After the program, join the party with The New Primitives, Alicia Wiley and others.

Organics, Nutritional Value and the Effects of Carbon Emissions

Seward Coop - a beautiful place to visit and shop

Can We Grow Healthy Food in an Unhealthy Environment?

I attended a class at the Seward Coop this morning on “How to Shop the Coop.” The woman who taught the class repeated a claim I’ve heard before that organics have more nutritional value. And furthermore, that food today is less nutritious than in the past.

I wondered what the research was behind these claims so I thought I’d investigate. I found several articles about the research into nutrition past, present and future.

Continue reading

Highest CO2 Emissions in History Sets the Stage for More Biking

The transportation mini-challenge doesn’t start until August, but when I saw that CLIF BAR had created a nifty biking challenge, I thought this was as good a time as any to commit to more biking for both the health benefits and CO2 reduction.

I have to admit, I was spurred to action when I saw the International Energy Agency  report that 2010 had the highest CO2 emissions in history. “At current rates, the 2° temperature increase that most experts consider the threshold of unmanageable climate change, will be considered a floor for potential future temperatures, rather than the ceiling.” That’s grim news from Greenbiz.

So what’s the challenge? To use your bike for any trip you take within a 2 mile radius of  your home.

Why 2 miles?

Forty percent of all urban travel is within 2 miles of home and yet 90% of the time people get in a car to make that trip! That puts tons of carbon into the atmosphere, exacerbating the problem of climate change. CLIF BAR hopes their challenge will inspire people to avoid 100,000 car trips.

Sign up to take the 2 Mile Challenge!

Last weekend I biked to book group, biked to an exercise class in Highland Park (almost but didn’t quite make it up the hill), and biked to the coop where I signed up for the ZAP program. (The ZAP program offers an incentive for members to visit the co-op on bicycle.)

That’s a great start for me. I’m looking forward to racking up more points for Team 350 this weekend. Maybe a bike ride to PRIDE.

Vatican Weighs in on Climate Change

I just finished reading a post by Republican, former climate-change-skeptic, Michael Stafford, “My Road to Damascus: Coming to Terms with Climate Change.” I have mixed feelings about his article – slightly hopeful, frustrated and angry. In fact, I’m not going to talk about it anymore. If you read it, feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think. 

Instead I wanted to highlight the fact that on May 5, a working group of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (the Vatican)  issued a report on the impacts of global climate change (particularly as it relates to the loss of glaciers and mountain snow and the people who are dependent upon those sources for water). The working group recommended three measures to reduce the threat of climate change:

1.“Reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions without delay, using all means possible to meet ambitious international global warming targets within a few decades:

  • Focus on a rapid transition to renewable energy sources
  • Avoid removal of carbon sinks by stopping deforestation, and reforestation of degraded lands
  • Develop and deploy technologies that draw down excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

2.“Reduce concentrations of warming air pollutants (dark soot, methane, lower atmosphere ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons) by as much as 50%.

3.“Prepare to adapt to the climatic changes, both chronic and abrupt, that society will be unable to mitigate.”

These are a pretty tall order. The best most of us can do is work to make our own small contribution and then work to elect politicians who can do more.

Frankly, I think the church made an even stronger statement in support of efforts to minimize climate change at last year’s World Day of Peace. The Pope’s statement was entitled, “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation.

Almost every large religious group has come out with its own statement on the care of creation. Do you know what your church has said on the topic? Maybe you’d like to take some time today to look it up online.