First climate change adaptation conference plans for coping while advocating preventative measures

At the inaugural Preparing Minnesota for Climate Change: A Conference on Climate Adaptation, climatologist Mark Seeley brought home the effects of climate change by making it personal. Seeley opened conference at the Science Museum of Minnesota, November 7, 2013. He told the 250 plus audience members that we can see the effects of a warming climate in our own backyard. More disease and pests are surviving our warmer winters. Roads deteriorate faster as the asphalt thaws and freezes more frequently throughout the winter season. Minnesotans sensitive to mold and allergies are enduring longer allergy seasons.

WRc Climate Conference attendeesUM Climatologist Mark Seeley, Science Museum of
Minnesota Director Patrick Hamilton, Water
Resources Center co-director Faye Sleeper, and
president of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota
Robert Johnson, following Johnson

Summer is bringing more heat wave episodes, which directly affects our lives and livelihoods, as stressed livestock are less productive, lakes create an overabundance of algae blooms, stressing water wildlife, while air conditioning bills soar.

Seeley concluded that while we must adapt to the changing climate, it would be poor judgment to do nothing to mitigate the causes of climate change.

Atmospheric scientist Peter Snyder provided a primer on climate modeling, with the models showing an overall warming trend of three-four degrees uptick from 2080-2099, with winter temperatures rising five to six degrees in some places in Minnesota. The models also showed an increase in cloud cover, and a lack of snow cover both of which factor into higher overnight winter temperatures, as the bare ground radiates heat, which is then trapped under the blanket of clouds. Snyder’s models also predict more winter rain events, which will have a negative effect on businesses dependent on winter recreation.

Snyder acknowledged that there is much work to do on improving models as a tool, especially for predicting rainfall, and recommended that a multiple model ensemble would be more accurate than single models for future projections.

“I am not an expert on climate change,” began Bob Johnson, president of the Insurance Federation in Minnesota, during his luncheon presentation. However, years of scrutiny of insurance claims in Minnesota have convinced him that our climate is changing. The spike in storm damage claims has increased insurance premium rates 267 percent higher between 1997 and 2010. The most common claims are hail, wind and water damage. Hail is the prime driver of cost, as replacement of roofs and siding is costly. Johnson contends the loss ratio for insurance companies is unsustainable.

Over the course of the afternoon, conference attendees heard speakers warn of retreating forests, higher human mortalities in urban areas, lakes suffering from lower water levels and increased nutrients, which means more plant life and less oxygen in the water, and more weather-related damage to infrastructure and roads.

Conference organizers were happy with the turnout for the conference. "We were very pleased that this conference filled a gap in understanding the impacts of climate adaptation in Minnesota. We look forward to next year’s conference at a larger venue to continue to build a community of climate adaptation practitioners," said Faye Sleeper, WRC co-director and one of the conference planners.

The conference was produced by the Climate Adaptation Partnership, with assistance from the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center, The Science Museum of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Extension, The McKnight Foundation, the Freshwater Society, the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Sea Grant, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservations Districts, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

WRC Climate Conference Pan