Facing the reality of climate change


Climate change ... Is it real?

It depends on whom you ask. Everyone has an opinion and some are based on facts, some are based on pure fiction and a few seem to be a mixture of both. With all the discussion revolving around the use of fossil fuels, it may be a very important discussion to be having and supporting with actual facts.

Perhaps the strongest argument against a problematic climate change is the fact that in the history of the earth, climate change is without a doubt somewhat cyclical. You can find scientific evidence of warming, cooling and everything in-between. So what has changed now? May we not simply be experiencing a natural occurrence?

The answer may be yes, but the more concerning and serious problem is the incredibly fast rate at which it is happening. This is not a political position of mine, rather an agreed-to reality by nearly all scientists, based on clear empirical data. The fact is that carbon dioxide produced by human activities is amplifying Earth's greenhouse effect. That is an indisputable fact and subsequently a driving force behind what should be state policy directed toward reductions.

But you may ask, why now is it such a problem?

If you look at the data, you will find a correlation between the increasing levels of carbon dioxide and Earth's massive population growth. During the 20th century, our population rose from a mere 1.6 billion people to around 6.1 billion. At the same time, due in part to the Industrial Revolution, our carbon dioxide emissions increased by a factor greater than 10, most of which is attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. Fuels such as coal and natural gas, when consumed by billions of people, are having a devastating impact, or at the very least, an accelerated devastating impact.

So when we discuss policy concerning greenhouse gas emission reduction and the need to slow down this alarming rate, it is actually very real. We cannot deny the empirical data, nor should we as a responsible society. We cannot let the oil or the coal industry frame our future for generations to come. We must accept the fact that change must occur if we want to preserve what we often take for granted.

This is why projects such as the conversion of Duluth's coal-fired steam plant are so critical in reducing our carbon footprint. Or efforts by responsible companies such as Minnesota Power to reduce fossil fuel consuming electrical generation facilities. Or the investments by the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District to harness onsite energy to generate electricity. There are a lot of things happening that are positive changes, and we as individuals have an opportunity to support such change because yes, climate change is real, and we really do need to make a difference.

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.