Tom's guests are MPR news reporter Elizabeth Dunbar and Pete Boulay, a climatologist at Minnesota's State Climatology Office.
Eric: Will climate change move the so called "tornado valley" northward to envelope more of Minnesota?
It's something that they are looking at says Elizabeth. "The problem with the tornado data is that it is inconsistent over time....there's more variability in where tornadoes are occuring."
"One storm, you cannot say it's climate change...think of weather as the clothes you are wearing today an climate is your entire closet." - Pete Boulay.
"If you want to see climate change, keep track of phenology," said Pete Boulay.
From listener Kevin Austin: "Of course the climate is changing. It has been changing for thousands of years. Saying it is rapidly changing more than usual since the industrial revolution and caused by carbon emissions is definitely deniable and is pretty arrogant. It's easy to pick the data you want to scare people into giving up their freedom when there is so much climate data to choose from, but calmer heads must prevail."
Elizabeth answers: "The scientists know how our carbon emissions have changed time...that really has changed since the 1800s...scientists are very certain about this."
Pete Boulay on wind: "It's kind of a perception thing." He added that every time he looks into the wind after someone reports "it's the windiest it's ever been," he can't find data that reflects that.
Elizabeth added that scientists are very unsure about wind. They are better at measuring temperature and rainfall,
Pete Boulay: "I like to keep an optimistic attitude that we can change...we can improve things and keep Minnesota life the way it is."
"The policies have really centered around coal-fired plants," said Elizabeth Dunbar. She also suggested that worm composting won't make a big enough dent.
"We are behind the country in aluminum recycling," said Pete Boulay about Minnesota.
Question from a caller: Why were we better at reacting to the threat to ozone layer than we are to climate change?
"Science found a solution and we could do it." - Pete Boulay
If you stump our trio we will track down a reply to your question after today’s event. So send in your best questions now.
Hello Dan, Elizabeth and Dave. Thanks for joining us.
Hello! Looking forward to your questions!
Before we get into the questions, I’d like to know a few things about the series. You started the series by laying out the proof that Minnesota’s climate is changing and that there is no debate about it. Was that a hard editorial decision to arrive at?
We did talk about that quite a bit at the outset of our reporting six months ago, and we consciously decided we wanted to focus our efforts, not on the debate over whether things are changing, but on the things Minnesotans were doing or not doing to adapt to changes that are very well documented.
How long did it take to report this project?
We started talking about it late last summer.
Dan and I have been reporting on a few other things since then, but much of our time has been focused on climate change.
Our first step in the reporting process was to bring in a dozen or more scientists and others and hold an open-ended session that helped us think through what the best questions were for us to answer.
Will warmer weather push the big bugs from the south, like termites up here? - Bill from St. Paul
I put this question to Mike Albers, a forest health specialist with the DNR, since we didn't report on this specifically. Here's what he said.
“As climate warms some insects from southern states will move north assuming their food exists here and the habitat is suitable. Termites exist near Chicago and there is a town in southern Wisconsin (Endeavor) that has had problems with termites already. They claim to have eradicated them now. So it’s not hard to imagine them showing up in Minnesota."
The overwhelming evidence is that humans are a factor. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen something like 25 percent in the past 50 years. Scientists agree that electricity generation, transportation and other human activities are responsible for the bulk of that increase.
How much does agriculture contribute to climate change? -- Jim from Deerwood, MN
Minnesota is a big agriculture state, so it contributes more emissions here than in other places. In Minnesota, agriculture accounts for roughly 19 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. That includes livestock (cows release a lot of methane, a potent greenhouse gas), fertilizer practices (nitrous oxide is released) and tilling the soil releases carbon dioxide.
Today, in fact, there’s a group of farmers, biofuel producers and state leaders that are down in North Mankato talking about how to reduce emissions in the agriculture sector. It's a challenge, especially as some areas of the state are seeing more farming.
Is it possible we could benefit in the short-term from longer growing seasons? -- Public Insight member
Minnesota is one of the states in the Midwest that is initially expected to see some gains. That’s according to a new report called Risky Business that looked at the impacts of climate change in the future. While the longer growing season will help Minnesota, the warmer temperatures could negatively affect other states. The corn belt, for example, could shift northward.
But the benefits of a longer growing season in Minnesota could be offset by other factors -- will diseases and pests get worse with climate change? Will more frequent flash floods affect a larger area of our agricultural landscape?
What is the impact of air travel on the climate? - Tom from Redwood Falls
No question, this is the topic that can make affluent people squirm when it comes to reducing their own carbon footprint. Airplane flights are a big contributor to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, although figuring out precisely how much is complicated. Long flights are more efficient that short flights, for example; and some people note that the fact planes fly so high exacerbates their contribution to the greenhouse gas effect.
One more point on the air travel: There are a number of calculators you can use online and their estimates vary. For example the Carbon Neutral website estimates a roundtrip flight to Mazatlan from Minneapolis-St. Paul for one person generates 1,254 pounds of carbon dioxide. The Climate Friendly site estimates it at 3,212. Either way, it’s a lot. Electrical use for a whole year in a typical home, for example, generates about 8,000 pounds.