Three-day climate change conference kicks off

More than 30 experts in geography, farming and biology are gathering this week for a three-day public forum on climate change, sustainable agriculture and bioresources. The forum kicks off Wednesday evening and runs through Friday. Minnesota State Climatologist Jim Zandlo , who will speak on a Thursday panel about global climate change and the biosphere, spoke with the Daily on Monday about climate change in Minnesota. Is climate change occurring in Minnesota? If so, at what rate, compared to the rest of the country? We have some changes that have been taking place over the last 30 years or so that look different from what had been happening in the years prior to that, going back a century or more. However, itâÄôs been relatively flat, nothing happening recently, the last three decades rising. ThatâÄôs temperatures doing that; things like humidity are doing that to some extent, and also precipitation. Those numbers that weâÄôre seeing seem to be in keeping with what is being seen in other parts of the country. There are no big surprises or anything like that. What do you think are some of the largest contributors to climate change? Climate always changes. Climate always has changed. There are both natural and anthromorphic causes. Trying to tease them apart from the numbers that you observe is exceedingly difficult. ThatâÄôs why thereâÄôs all the controversy. Nobody has a foolproof method of doing it. That said, you can demonstrate there are problems in the data that have nothing to do with climate. We have to be aware that those things are there. According to your report on Minnesota climate change, Lake Superior temperatures have risen 4 degrees in the last 25 years. How significant is that rise and how does it affect things like wildlife and water levels? Two years ago, we had both a lack of precipitation and a very hot-lit surface layer. We not only didnâÄôt get water falling on the lake, but water was leaving the lake surface, of course, because of evaporation faster than usual. Some of the calculations I did indicated that the amount of evaporations that was more than normal was, perhaps, as much of the deficit of precipitation. In other words, we had a double whammy. Certainly, warmer temperatures would affect the lake negatively in terms of water balance. The agriculture community in Minnesota is a large one. What effect does climate change have on their productivity and average yield? A longer growing season is possible; thatâÄôs a positive thing. Higher heat would probably cause less moisture availability in the soil. That would be a negative thing. Warmer winters, probably less of the pests that normally get killed off in the winter. That would be a negative thing. More precipitation than before is one of the things weâÄôre forecasting for our part of the country. That would be a porous positive thing. ThereâÄôs the back and forth things. Carbon dioxide itself is one of the things that plants use right at the base of their energy system. I donâÄôt have a definitive answer; I know nobody has a definitive answer. In your opinion, what can be done about climate change? Is there anything college students can do? ItâÄôs a two-phase thing. One is to understand what climate change could do, and they need to adapt to it. For instance, agriculture could adapt to it. But as far as stopping it âÄî reducing manâÄôs influence on the climate âÄî thatâÄôs just a matter of putting out less of those gases that absorb heat. ThatâÄôs carbon dioxide, methane and a number of other things. Carbon dioxide is the big one thatâÄôs associated with using energy. So, energy efficiency is probably the number one thing that could be done right now.