As Minnesotans head to our favorite lakes this August, we’ll no doubt find ourselves peeved by some small things along the way. In no time, we’ll be complaining about a late summer heatwave, swatting away new swarms of mosquitoes, or even swearing that the fish were much bigger last year.
Despite our love for the outdoors, we’re right to grumble. Minnesotans can see the changes happening to our beloved waters, forests, and grasslands as climate change takes hold. Temperatures are warming, and the natural environment is being disrupted. The effects of climate change are already impacting our lives; in fact, it is largely to blame for making summers hotter, mosquitoes more hardy, and cold-water fish more threatened. Farmers are already feeling climate change’s impact, with last spring’s intense rains threatening to delay or ruin crop planting. One need only turn on the news to see another round of dangerous climate change-propelled disasters wreaking havoc across the country.
Minnesota needs elected leaders who will take these threats seriously, people who will work tirelessly to prepare for and prevent the worst dangers that climate change has in store. If they don’t, our states’ very safety, prosperity, and cherished ways of life are at stake.
Minnesota is warming more quickly than the rest of the globe. On average, temperatures in Minneapolis are a remarkable 3.7°F warmer than they were in 1970. Scientists tell us that if we continue on our current trajectory, these small changes will only be the beginning of an increasingly disrupted future. Without major changes, the amount of warming the world experiences could become triple what we are experiencing today.
Soon, hot summers and dwindling fish stocks will be the least of our worries. Climate change will unleash a flurry of intense changes across the world, from persistent droughts, to more frequent natural disasters, to impacts on human health, infrastructure, and agriculture. Many parts of the world, like the Middle East and Central America are already feeling these changes, and climate change will exacerbate histories of conflict.
Our country’s military leaders are sounding the alarm, warning the impacts of climate change will pose severe risks to U.S. national security. That they identify climate change as a severe threat to our nation’s troops – alongside terrorism and nuclear weapons – should make us all take the issue seriously.
But throughout his term, President Trump has ignored these warnings from generals, intelligence officials, and scientists, keeping his head in the sand. He can see the tragedies felt by American communities as extreme weather wipes out their livelihoods in intense floods, fires and storms. But he will not keep us safe from the threat. He will not fight for our children’s future.
There are, however, leaders who are listening to the warnings. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has a plan to build our economy with clean energy jobs. Dan Feehan, running for Congress in District 1, led on the issue when he served at the Department of Defense. Senators Klobuchar and Smith have demanded swift action to combat the climate crisis and to preserve the clean air and water that Minnesotans depend upon.
Smart leaders confront danger head-on. As the COVID-19 pandemic taught us, threats from aboard – ones that do not recognize borders – can undermine Minnesotans’ health and prosperity. Climate change is one of those threats. We must elect leaders who will tackle climate change and build resilience.
Kate Offerdahl Guy is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford and a Senior Research Fellow with the Center for Climate and Security. She is from Champlin, Minnesota.