Climate adaptation conference speaker stresses urgency
Eco-journalist Mark Hertsgaard didn’t mince words during his speech at the Minnesota Climate Adaptation Conference, held November 14, 2018 at the Continuing Education Building on the UMN St. Paul campus. Climate change threats are “an emergency,” and he urged his audience of 225 to maintain their courage as they tackle climate change and adapt to life in an already damaged environment. “Mitigation and adaptation are dual imperatives.”
In order to succeed locally, says Hertsgaard, we need to think about climate globally. Think bigger about problems and solutions.
As temperatures increase, says Hertsgaard, so do societal, economic and political instability. The dire nature of climate change needs to be communicated more clearly, including its impacts if we do nothing and our options defined for both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts that are already in the pipeline. Media needs to do better, although the challenges go beyond communicating the science. Our response to climate change is defined more by our political and economic stances than our scientific literacy. And incremental changes will not be enough to stop the climate’s degradation. “The house is on fire…and the lives of millions are at stake,” said Hertsgaard.
The Minnesota Climate Adaptation Awards were presented following Hertsgaard’s remarks. The awards celebrate achievements in leadership, education, research, policies, and practices that improve resilience, advance or implement climate adaptation strategies. The individual awardee was Paul Moss (MPCA, retired). Moss was recognized for spearheading development of climate adaptation strategies, building connections among inter-agency staff, and creating key reports on adaptation planning in Minnesota. The institution award went to the Metropolitan Council. Highlights of the Council’s work include providing resources to 188 metropolitan jurisdictions related specifically to adaptation and offering more than one million for green infrastructure projects to benefit regional water quality. Room & Board received the business award for its Urban MeadowTM which requires no irrigation, allows for efficient and effective stormwater retention, and abundant habitat for pollinators. The organization award recognized HealthPartners for its leadership on climate issues, including creating a toolkit to help communities identify climate-related health risks.
Breakout sessions throughout the day provided conference attendees opportunities to learn about ways to mitigate climate change through engineering, science, education and communication.