MONTEVIDEO -- There's still time and all the incentives in the world to do something about climate change before Minnesotans, as one wag put it, add 'possum stew' to the favorite recipes of hunters in the state.
Developing the state's clean energy opportunities could create new jobs and economic opportunities while reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, Reed Aronow told a gathering at the Clean Up our River Environment office in Montevideo on Wednesday.
Aronow, 25, represented Minnesota as a youth delegate to the 2009 world conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark. He also attended the December 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico, as a representative of the Will Steger Foundation, for which he works.
Although many in the environmental community have been critical of what has come from both world gatherings, Aronow said he returned home optimistic. Nations are slow to agree on what to do, to be sure, but there was movement and momentum, he said.
Aronow is a St. Paul native who earned a bachelor's degree in archaeology and climate studies at Hamline University in 2009. He has been part of sponsored bicycle rides around Minnesota in 2009 and 2010, both with the aim of hearing what people have to say about climate change.
"It's across the board," said Aronow of how the topic is received by people in the state. He had one man tell him point blank that he doesn't believe the science behind climate change. Yet the same individual helped launch one of the state's larger wind farms. There may be mixed feelings on the street, but Aronow said there is strong consensus among 95 percent of the world's scientific community that climate change is the result of our greenhouse gas emissions.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen during the last 200 years from 275 parts per million to 388 ppm today. Advocates for reversing climate change believe the safe level is 350 ppm.
The northward migration of opossums into Minnesota is only one of the results of a warming climate. Most climate models show our climate becoming like that of Missouri or Oklahoma by 2050 if current trends continue. More extremes in weather, such as the nation-leading 145 tornadoes seen in Minnesota in 2010 are the types of changes that are predicted. Aronow said our mid-continental location puts us at risk for bigger swings from drought to severe rain events.
He's heard first hand accounts of the harms climate change has caused, but he's reluctant to talk about the potential problems it may bring to Minnesota. Raising fears does not really motivate the change needed, he said. The opportunities to create jobs through clean energy will do more to motivate people no matter their views, he said.
Aronow said his college studies about the changes occurring in our climate had made him feel some despair, until he attended the world climate change conferences and discovered that young people around the world share his concerns and motivation to do something about it.