Polar explorer Will Steger and Fresh Energy Director “J.” Drake Hamilton visited campus on Tuesday.
Steger and Hamilton discussed climate change and policy. Steger drew from his personal experiences in seeing climate change in the arctic region, while Hamilton focused on policy and its effect on our environment, specifically in Minnesota. Both expressed strong beliefs that younger generations will play a key role in developing further research and policy to limit global warming.
“We have all this information,” Hamilton said. “We know the clean energy path we need to be on. I strongly believe that younger generations get it and that they might end up leading my generation in this.”
“You guys gotta step up to the plate,” Steger said. “It’s your world. It’s your self-interest.”
Both CSB and SJU pledged to become carbon neutral by 2035, which will include looking into to clean energy sources instead of burning coal for energy. Coal burning accounts for approximately half of Minnesota’s energy sources and, because of its carbon dioxide emissions, is the number one cause of global warming.
“At St. Ben’s we are seriously looking into renewable energy,” said Judy Purman, the director of the Office of Sustainability at CSB.
“We want to cut down on energy use and we’re working on a very detailed carbon reduction plan.”
St. Ben’s and St. John’s are not the only ones looking for clean energy alternatives to coal burning. Hamilton and Fresh Energy look for new ways of harnessing clean energy, such as through wind and solar power.
Action and policy demonstrate that Minnesota is embracing clean energy. Minnesota receives 14.3 percent of its energy from wind and is ranked number four in the nation for wind energy. Governor Dayton recently signed a law requiring that electric companies must generate at least 1.5 percent of their power from solar energy by 2020, with a goal of receiving 10 percent of our energy from solar sources by 2030.
“(Hamilton) brought the idea of sustainability and efficient energy use to an accessible energy level,” said senior political science major Dan Wattenhofer, who attended the presentation. “She really brought it to us, to Minnesota, to change we can see.”
“I knew it was an issue, but I just didn’t know how major of an issue it was,” said first-year biochemistry major C.J. Pettinger, who was also at the presentation. “It’s nice to see how progressive Minnesota is.”
Steger, who led several polar expeditions to the North Pole and across Greenland, among other places, spent about 1,000 days over his lifetime in the arctic and became an eyewitness to the effects of climate change on that environment. Most notably, while the arctic region was about 95 percent snow and ice, by 2007, it was almost 50 percent water.
“The ’90s is when we really saw huge amounts of water,” Steger said. “We encountered more open water in one day than in 56 days, ten years before that.”
Hamilton emphasized that this issue is not irreversible.
“If I thought this was inevitable, I wouldn’t be here doing this,” Hamilton said. “What happens in Minnesota depends on decisions we make in the next few years.”