Minnesotans Are Standing Up to Climate Change

They should call them three-year floods. In the last decade, Minnesota has seen three 1,000-year flooding events, which have damaged homes and claimed lives. What scientists used to predict would happen every 1,000 years has happened in our home state an average of every three years.

Climate change is real and requires action now. We need to support the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in protecting our planet from carbon pollution and urge our utility companies to phase out some of the dirtiest coal plants in the state.

While Congress seems to be the last refuge for climate deniers -- counting 160 among our ranks -- the science on climate change is clearer than ever. Just this year, the world's leading climate scientists concluded that warming of the climate is unequivocal and that it is "extremely likely" that humans are the main cause.

We can no longer ignore the real harm that a warming climate is inflicting on people. Climate change has increased the likelihood of flooding and extreme weather, making heat waves in the United States four times more likely, and nearly doubling the likelihood of storms like Hurricane Sandy.

Across the country we are seeing more weather disasters like Minnesota's 1,000-year floods. Last year was the second costliest year for weather disasters in three decades, with 11 severe storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires causing $160 billion in damages, killing 300 people, and devastating communities across the U.S.

Heat-related deaths could more than triple in the United States this century. Who is the most impacted? According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the groups most at risk to extreme heat are children, the elderly, and the poor -- those least equipped to handle heat waves.

The warning bells couldn't be ringing any louder.

If your doctor told you that it was "extremely likely" that eating a certain food would make you sick, you'd give it up, right? Carbon pollution is making our planet sick and it's time for us to give it up.

Right now, power plants can emit carbon pollution without any limits. Just as the EPA protects our health from mercury and lead, it should also protect us from dangerous carbon pollution. President Obama's EPA is planning to do just that, announcing carbon emission limits for new power plants, and planning to extend these limits to old power plants over the next few years. If EPA cuts carbon pollution from power plants by just a quarter, it would save up to $60 billion by 2020 in saved lives, reduced illness, and avoided climate change.

EPA's actions are perhaps the most meaningful steps being taken anywhere on the planet to control carbon pollution. Many in the well-funded utility industry will fight them tooth and nail. The president and the EPA need our full support in taking these critical actions to limit carbon pollution.

We also need to continue our progress on clean energy in Minnesota. We have one of the strongest renewable energy standards in the country, requiring 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Utilities like Xcel Energy have made notable gains in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But this work must continue if we are to avoid the dangerous effects of climate change.

Xcel is in the process of reviewing Units 1 and 2 at its Sherco coal plant -- the largest carbon polluter in Minnesota. I urge Xcel to use this opportunity to set a timeline to phase out these old, dirty units and replace them with clean energy.

We know cutting carbon pollution and improving our energy, transit, and water systems will create good jobs for workers and protect our communities.

Clean air and a healthy climate benefit all of us, but it will take a diverse coalition to step up to the threat posed by unchecked climate change. That's why tonight at 6:30 pm, Minnesotans from all walks of life -- faith, environmental, labor, health, student, and international development leaders -- are gathering at North High School in Minneapolis to rise to the challenge.

We are coming together and organizing to say that the "delay and deny" approach is wrong and that the time to act is now.

Details for the event can be found here.