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Assistant Majority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) announced today that she would sponsor legislation designed to fight the threat of global warming. Hortman made the announcement on the same day that the House and Senate gathered for a presentation on climate change by Will Steger, an artic explorer and Minnesota native.
"We need to address this issue immediately," Hortman said. "Mr. Steger's presentation brings a harsh reality into sharp relief. If we do not act, the Minnesota that we grew up in will not exist for our children and grandchildren."
Hortman's bill would set a goal of reducing greenhouse gases emitted by transportation related sources by 30% by the year 2030. It would direct the Commissioner of Transportation to develop a strategic plan to meet that objective and require that the Department of Transportation consider carbon emissions when making decisions about which transportation projects to fund. Hortman noted that transportation accounts for about 34% of carbon emissions, making it a significant source of greenhouse gas. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, transportation is the single largest contributor of greenhouse gases in our state. Electric generation is a close second.
"If we're going to do something about global warming, then we'll need to address transportation, it is very significant contributing factor," Hortman said. "We need to be smart about how we invest in our roads and transit, so that we do it in a way that is cost effective and environmentally conscious."
Hortman stressed the importance of acting before climate change becomes irreversible, pointing to a new report by a panel sponsored by the United Nations. A draft of the report, issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predicted that the Earth's temperature could rise as much as ten degrees over the next 100 years. Even more devastating, the report noted that it would take over 1,000 years to reverse the damage done during the next century.
"We are doing damage that we may not be able to repair," Hortman said. "2006 was the warmest year on record in the United States, but that is a record that won't last very long if we do not act now."
Locally, the effects of such a change would be dramatic and catastrophic. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency predicts that global warming could destroy the boreal forests of the Boundary Waters, lower lake levels, decrease ice cover during the winter and threaten waterfowl populations.
"We're talking about nothing less than radically changing our way of life," Hortman said. "Ice fishing, duck hunting, skiing and boating are just some of the distinctly Minnesotan activities that are threatened by climate change."
Hortman said her bill is just one of several that must pass to meet the challenge of global warming.
"This helps with one part of the problem, but its still only one part," she said. "We also need to pass bills like the Renewable Energy Standard if we are going to make real change."