A draft of the latest National Climate Assessment is out, and the findings are sobering. The work of more than 400 scientists, thousands of studies, and data drawn from 60 nations shows beyond any reasonable doubt that human-driven climate change is a measurable, observable, inescapable fact.
The findings show that humans are changing the climate — dramatically. Among the conclusions: The last few decades are the warmest in the last 1,500 years. In what should be a warning to all, scientists from most major federal agencies said that “[e]vidence of a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans … . Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are primarily responsible for observed climate change.”
The report comes against the backdrop of a president who has vociferously opposed even the idea of climate change, calling it at one point a hoax foisted upon the world by the Chinese. Needless to say, President Donald Trump never offered support for that extraordinary claim, but he nevertheless proceeded to make good on his threat to begin extricating the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a landmark agreement among the world’s major nations to address this global threat.
The new climate assessment should serve notice that the time for such political shenanigans is over. Minnesotans know this even more acutely than the rest of the country. According to University of Minnesota climatologist Mark Seeley, for a variety of reasons this state has been hit exceptionally hard by climate change in a way that longtime Minnesotans have been able to observe over the course of their own lifetimes. Winters are milder. Spring comes earlier, and the summers that follow are warmer and wetter.
Last year was record-setting for the amount of precipitation in Minnesota. Some may think that doesn’t sound too bad. But the implications of climate change are far-reaching. Native fish that prefer cooler lakes are vanishing. Moose are growing scarce. Aspen trees, with their shimmering leaves, are dying out in places. Weather events are more extreme, causing more damage. Populations of ticks and other parasites are growing — with all the public health implications that carries — and allergy season here is longer than ever.
Seeley, who has tracked the changes for 40 years, told an editorial writer that the rate is accelerating at too rapid a clip to be attributed to anything other than human intervention. “It’s not random. It’s not natural,” he said. “There is no way anyone can claim this is all naturally driven. That is not a valid argument. The pace of change is remarkable, whether it’s in a 100-, 1,000- or 10,000-year context.”
Seeley has little hope that the report, dire as it is, will ring the alarm bells needed to wake this federal administration from its slumber of denial. “But I’ve always believed in tackling this issue from the bottom up,” he said.
And that is where Minnesotans should take heart. Change can be made at the town, city, county and state levels. Minnesota, a national leader on reducing emissions, knows how to do this. Reject the fatalist, blinkered approach that refuses to acknowledge human responsibility and the need to mitigate the damage that has been done.
This planet is home. There is no other. Doubters should read the facts for themselves, then demand that their elected representatives do the same and stop swallowing the easy fiction that tells them they need not worry.