U of M professor helps author climate change report

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A University of Minnesota professor is one of the authors of the new Federal Climate Assessment Report.

Paul Bolstad, a professor of Forest Resources, co-wrote the report, which is has been required by Federal Law since 1990.

The report is intended to be issued every four years, but the 2014 Climate Assessment is only the third issued. The report clearly falls on the side of Climate Change (formerly called global warming) as a fact and blamed on human activity.

"It is pretty unequivocal in this report that humans are causing climate change," said Bolstad. "There is really no question. The science is as sure as the science from cigarettes causing cancer."

Although the assessment is an examination of global and U.S. impacts, Bolstad said there are "pretty clear signals" for the Upper Midwest.

"One of the things we will see, at least on the water side, is much greater water use and water demand," said Bolstad. "Higher temperatures, these trees or vegetation will use more water. One of the big trees will use 200 gallons of water in a day and at higher temperatures they use more water.

"The other thing is that the growing season is getting longer. With a longer growing season, there is just more time for them to use water. We will see a greater incidence of water shortages. Another thing that is happening with climate change is we will see longer droughts."

The assessment notes the longer growing season which will benefit some crops, but adds that any benefits will be offset by more extreme weather events. Minnesotans will notice basic changes in the state.

"The vegetation, the animals that we have here will be much more like what we see in central Missouri," said Bolstad. "Aspen and birch, really in dense patches, migrating out of northern Minnesota. You go up to the Boundary Waters and you will have more oaks and maples. It will look at lot more like central Minnesota than like the Boundary Waters.

"Cold-adapted species, like the Moose, will be disappearing out of northern Minnesota. (There will be) more bass and fewer trout. The fish species that really require cool, well-oxygenated waters will have a harder time, especially in streams."

Bolstad pointed out that 70 percent of Minnesotans live in cities. He said the impact there will be noticeable including "higher electricity bills because of greater peak energy use."

"The storms we had in 2012 up in Duluth or back in 2007 down in southeastern Minnesota that caused billions of dollars in damage are the sorts of things we are going to see more of," said Bolstad. "So, culverts, for example, will have to be resized because our 15-inch rain will not be a rare thing anymore in Minnesota."

State Extension Climatologist and U of M Professor Mark Seeley agrees about the more intense rain storms and adds more personal human situations to the mix of troubles.

"We are subject to more frequent summer heat waves because of the high tropical dew points," said Seeley. "The water vapor content of the atmosphere getting greater and therefore spiking the heat index.

"Our mold and allergen season has been extended by this temperature change. So, we have a wider window on the calendar that we have more of our population suffering from molds and allergens and things like that."

Seeley appreciated that the new assessment does not take a cookie-cutter approach to all areas of the country.

"There is no pretense about climate change being uniform or having uniform consequences, but it also describes the differences among the regions and things like that," said Seeley.

However, Seeley said doing something about the climate change in the assessment will not be easy or simple.

"To actually do something that will have an impact will take a lot of money and a long time and people have to change habits," he said.


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