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An ice-free Arctic

A full room at the Anderson Center was captivated by Arctic explorer and Richfield, Minnesota native Will Steger’s portrayal of two vastly different polar adventures due to climate change, emphasizing that climate action is “our obligation.”

Steger explained how he always considered the Arctic Ocean as a “tipping point,” a gauge for the climatic condition.

In his rare travels of the ocean, which very few people have crossed due to its vastness and dangerous terrain, he noticed a drastic change from his voyage in the 1980s to the next in the 1990s.

“In the ‘90s what we started to see was open water,” Steger said. “We saw the same about (of open water) the first day in the ‘90s as in the ‘80s during a 501-day journey.”

He also mentioned that in the 1990s it was already too dangerous to cross the Arctic Ocean with a sled dog team alone.

“Traveling north for over 50 years, I never thought I would see this … canoeing on open water,” Steger said showing a picture of the event.

Steger highlighted that 2007 brought a major break up of the Arctic Oceans “old ice,” which is its thickest and oldest kind.

“We are rapidly heading to an ice-free Arctic Ocean,” he said.

He said one of the main motivations of climate action is the moral issue of extinction, especially of animals in the polar regions.

Steger encouraged attendees to “Google the walrus” and to see that there is a major problem for that species’ survival due to the rapid climate change.

“I’m not trying to scare you,” Steger said. “But this is reality. We are here to look at solutions, but this is reality.”

Concluding his part of the four-hour Climate Solutions for Red Wing & Beyond community forum, Steger outlined the culprit of climate change as fossil fuels, stating that we need renewable energy.

“We need to move into a clean energy economy,” he said, highlighting that Minnesota is a state where there is going to be “a huge renewable energy revolution.”

Following Steger’s talk, J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director at Fresh Energy, and Julia Nerbonne, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of Interfaith Power and Light, spoke.

“For a long time humans have been very green but politicians have not,” Drake Hamilton said.

Former Star Tribune editorial writer and award winner James Lenfestey introduced each speaker and also presented accounts of his experience with the issue of climate change.

“Science and bad public policy got us here and science and good public policy can get us out,” Lenfestey said.

Drake Hamilton, a St. Paul resident, noted that $13 billion is spent by Minnesota each year to buy fossil fuels.

“I have not met an audience in Minnesota that thinks this is the best way to spend $13 billion,” she said.

She then highlighted the state’s potential for renewable energy through solar and wind energy, which provides opportunities to keep that money within the state’s borders while keeping the air clean for current and future generations.

Although people are the target for blame when it comes to global warming, Drake Hamilton said it is people who “give her hope.”

“Lots of people in Minnesota are informed and are taking action,” she said.

Along with creating renewable energy Steger presented “building up resiliency” against fossil fuels a major solution to climate change as well as continuing to educate the upcoming generations.