Minnesota's Changing Climate Overview
The Will Steger Foundation created Minnesota’s Changing Climate because we believe that environmental stewardship and action begins with a local connection and sense of appreciation, or environmental sensitivity, towards the natural environment. As educators, you have the unique opportunity to lead your students through the environmental education continuum of knowledge, awareness, and skills that lead to an informed and active environmental citizenry. Minnesota’s Changing Climate is a great place to start because it follows this model of inspiring an appreciation and understanding of Minnesota’s natural environment and empowering action.
Climate change is one of the most critical issues of our time. The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community for the past two decades has been that the planetary warming we are now experiencing, and the resulting climate change, is largely a human induced phenomenon. This was reconfirmed with overwhelming consensus in 2007 with the release of the fourth report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate change is largely driven by human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity and drive our cars, which in turn emit gases—principally carbon dioxide—that blanket the planet and trap heat, raising the earth’s surface temperature.
Minnesota is at risk from climate change. From the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the great northern boreal forests, to the northern tall grass prairie, water is a critical element of Minnesota’s rich ecological character. Lake Superior borders the state to the northeast, the Mississippi and Red rivers define large portions of the eastern and western borders respectively, and there are thousands of inland lakes throughout the state. Minnesotans benefit from the many recreational, inspirational, and economic opportunities provided by this diversity of biomes. It is precisely these ecological and natural resources that are at risk from climate change.
Will Steger ’s compelling life story of adventure has motivated thousands of Minnesotan’s to care about our state and has generated real concern over the threat of climate change to our economy, natural resources, and way of life. Using Will’s archives, starting when he was a young boy growing up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, to his Mississippi River adventures, to his homestead on the edge of the Boundary Waters wilderness, and the inspiration these experiences gave him to explore the Arctic, we share his story to inspire others. It was Will’s early observation of the natural world and his curiosity of weather and climate that eventually enabled him to explore and survive in the Arctic. It is these critical skills that we focus on in Minnesota’s Changing Climate.
In the curriculum and online classroom, we explore and learn about Minnesota’s unique biomes and what a changing climate will mean for the state. Specifically, we examine how climate has already, and is projected to change in Minnesota; how these changes may impact agriculture, forests and wildlife, aquatic ecosystems, our economy, as well as tourism and recreation; and how you can help reduce these potential impacts and help your biome adapt to a changing climate.