Contact: Mary Connor, 651-757-2629
St. Paul, Minn. — Climate change is a major threat to our environment and the health of our communities. On Earth Day, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is reminding individuals, businesses and communities about the resources available for both combating climate change and adapting to its effects.
Minnesota communities are struggling with the impacts of climate change, including extreme storms and flooding and increased temperatures intensified by higher humidity. City stormwater and wastewater systems must be updated to handle the increasingly heavy rainfall amounts. As extreme weather increases, so do our home insurance rates, the number of heat-related health emergencies and disturbances to farming and other industries. We also pay for more climate-related natural disasters — 32 such disasters since 1997 have cost Minnesota nearly $500 million.
Communities and institutions around the state are responding to the climate adaptation challenge by ensuring their roads and stormwater systems can handle heavy rainfalls, and planning for the future. For example:
- The major flood that hit Duluth in 2012 severely damaged the city’s stormwater infrastructure. As part of its recovery and repair process, Duluth is taking the opportunity to increase its stormwater capacity significantly.
- Minneapolis is experimenting with community resiliency in an “innovation district” inside the city. The neighborhood infrastructure is designed to deal with a variety of weather.
- Macalester College in St. Paul has adopted sustainable landscaping practices and installed green roofs on two buildings that will help control the flow of stormwater on campus.
- A 2013 report from the Minnesota Interagency Climate Adaptation Team describes the ways that Minnesota state agencies are adapting to climate change.
Communities and residents looking for more information on climate change adaptation should visit the Minnesota GreenStep Cities.
It’s also important to continue cutting greenhouse gas emissions and slowing the rate of climate change. Burning fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) to run our power plants, vehicles and factories produces carbon dioxide, the predominant greenhouse gas. Cutting our energy and vehicle use will have the most impact on the rate of climate change. Though Minnesota’s use of coal has dropped dramatically in recent years, the state still gets more than 55 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants. The MPCA asks Minnesotans to consider:
- Improving your energy efficiency — Participate in your utility’s energy-efficiency programs to save money and reduce emissions. Buy energy-efficient appliances and equipment. Get a home energy assessment by a professional auditor to discover where you can cut back.
- Choosing alternative transportation — Use public transportation, a bike or running/walking for all or part of your commute. Look into car-sharing programs, carpooling or bus/train options in your area. When replacing a vehicle, choose hybrid or electric cars and trucks.
- Plugging into renewable energy — Subscribe to community solar gardens — centrally-located solar photovoltaic systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers — or install solar panels on your house. Ask your utility to obtain your energy from renewables. For instance, Xcel Energy’s Windsource program allows customers to pay a little extra to get some or all of their energy from renewable resources.
More information and resources are available on the MPCA's Climate Change webpage.