Star Tribune Commentary by Tina Smith – December 23, 2015

Minnesota is already a leader in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but we can — and certainly will — do even more.

Much of Minnesota has experienced springlike temperatures this December, often in the 40s. Warmer weather has become the norm; since 1998, the Earth has experienced 10 of the warmest years on record. And 2015 is expected to break last year’s record as the warmest yet.

This is why we all should be celebrating that nearly 200 countries have reached consensus on a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The Paris Climate Agreement puts the world on a path to avoid the worst effects of climate change by keeping any increase in global temperature below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gov. Mark Dayton and I strongly support bold action to tackle climate change. Doing so will be good for our environment, good for our health and good for our economy.

We know that our climate is changing because of human activity. Minnesota has experienced three 1,000-year floods since 2004. We have seen our moose herd decline by 50 percent. We have watched our northern forests of spruce, fir, aspen and birch retreat. Minnesota is already experiencing the impacts of climate change.

We also know that public health and climate change are inextricably linked. Car exhaust and coal-fired power-plant emissions that damage the climate also hurt our health. Air pollution causes Minnesotans to miss work and school — costing us more than $800 million a year — largely due to cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. The President’s Clean Power Plan is projected to result in 300,000 fewer missed days of work and school nationally each year. When we are physically healthy, our economy is healthier, too.

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