Like most Minnesotans, I am an optimist. In our state, we believe in the promise of science, technology and innovation when we need to solve a problem. After all, we have given the world the pacemaker and the Post-It Note.
Minnesotans also believe in the power of education. We believe that we can build a better world when we nurture the intelligence and imagination of our young people.
We are going to need it all as we confront the challenge of global climate change.
Scientists have confirmed that the Earth is warming. Greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide, from cars, power plants and other manmade sources are the primary cause, due especially to the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal.
These gases stay in the atmosphere and create a “greenhouse effect,” trapping more of the sun’s heat near the Earth’s surface and gradually pushing up the planet’s temperature.
In the past century, worldwide temperatures have risen by an average of 1 degree Fahrenheit. That might not sound like much. But consider it in this perspective: Since the height of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago, temperatures have risen by only 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The latest forecasts are that, over the next century, temperatures will continue to rise by 3 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit
As a result, ice caps and glaciers are melting, oceans are getting warmer and sea levels are rising. Ecosystems around the world are reacting, as plant and animals struggle to adapt.
Minnesotans are beginning to see it, too, as climate change affects the winter ice cover on our lakes, the amounts of snowfall we receive and the rainfall patterns we experience. Longtime hunters and anglers tell me they can see the changes, and there is growing scientific evidence that Lake Superior is being affected.
Climate change is a real problem. But it also has real solutions.
We have the power, as individuals and working together, to take serious action to reduce the threats posed by climate change.
For example, we can shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, whether biofuels for our vehicles or wind power for our electricity. We can also adopt more energy-efficient technologies, which would save money, too.
As if often the case when the world is changing, it is the younger generations that are the first to learn and to do something about it.
That is why I have started the “Carbon Buster Awards of Excellence” competition to encourage students across Minnesota to show us how to raise public awareness and highlight what can be done to combat global warming.
I know there are already many great things going on in our schools because I have seen it for myself.
In Apple Valley and in Lac qui Parle County, I have visited schools that have their own wind turbines. These machines are not only producing electricity; they are also generating knowledge.
In Elk River, I have been to a newly built elementary school that has a full array of energy-saving “green” features. The students there were proud to do a show-and-tell.
In Minneapolis, I went to a magnet school that focuses on environmental learning. The third-graders were eager to describe what they have learned about our state’s different “biomes” (plant and animal ecologies) and how they could be affected by a warming climate.
Seeing all of this, and more, inspires hope and optimism that we will be able to successfully confront the challenge of global warming. I believe Minnesota’s young people will help lead the way.
How to enter
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar invites K-12 students across Minnesota to submit pictures, essays or photos to show how to raise public awareness and highlight what can be done to combat global warming.
There are four categories:
-- Essay for grads K-6.
-- Multimedia project for grades K-6.
-- Essay for grades 7-12.
-- Multimedia project for grades 7-12.
Essays should be no longer than 500 words. Videos should be no longer than five minutes.
Deadline is Dec. 14.
Send entries to:
Carbon Buster Nominations
1 Federal Drive
Whipple Federal Building, Suite 298
Fort Snelling, MN 55111
Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., is a member of the U.S. Senate, where she serves on the Environment Committee.