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Minnesota Public Radio News Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner discusses the latest research on our changing climate.

Climate Cast MPR

    • Kunst

Minnesota Public Radio News Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner discusses the latest research on our changing climate.

    Minneapolis development to use groundwater to heat and cool buildings

    Minneapolis development to use groundwater to heat and cool buildings

    A reduction in carbon-emitting coal plants has increased reliance on natural gas, especially in colder climates like Minnesota. But natural gas is still a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, so the city Minneapolis is beginning to eye aquifer thermal energy as a cleaner alternative.
    The technology uses groundwater to heat and cool buildings and is planned for four buildings in the upcoming Towerside Innovation District along University Avenue in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis.
    “But the capacity of the system is fairly limitless, so once its infrastructure is in place, all new development in that area would have the potential to connect,” said Nina Axelson, vice president of sustainability and outreach for Ever-Green Energy, an energy nonprofit partnering on the project.
    Axelson said the system draws heat from buildings during warmer months and stores that energy in the aquifer beneath the building. In the colder months, that energy combined with the aquifer’s natural temperature act as a jump start for electric pumps that heat the building.
    “It wouldn't be able to [heat the building] alone,” she said. “So this is under the trend of beneficial electrification, which means you're going to pair electricity with that geothermal capacity in the aquifer to increase the heat enough to be used for heating the building or for hot water uses.”
    And as the grid increasingly taps renewable energy, the electricity paired with the groundwater system is also increasingly clean.
    Axelson said Minnesota’s geology is a good match for the technology, which is more widely used in Europe, and she expects it to become more common in the state. She said three other developments in the region considering aquifer thermal energy.
    “This is absolutely a place for Minnesota to lead,” Axelson said.

    • 4 min.
    Climate change experts find hope in global action to contain coronavirus

    Climate change experts find hope in global action to contain coronavirus

    As the world economy rolls to a near halt with COVID-19 quarantines and ongoing uncertainty, so have greenhouse gas emissions. Energy use and emissions in China dropped 25 percent during a two week period in February, according to the climate website Carbon Brief. And the BBC reports carbon emissions from cars have been cut in half in New York.
    But experts say what seems like a silver lining to the coronavirus crisis isn’t a sterling solution. They say emissions could rise drastically when the pandemic is over; China’s savings are expected to result in a 1 percent drop overall by the end of the year. And self-distancing isn’t the kind of market overhaul needed to sustain long-term progress.
    ”The difference between this and actually making very intentional policies and measures to reduce greenhouse gases is that the economic consequences of the coronavirus are fundamentally negative,” said Christiana Figueres, a former United Nations Climate Change Conference executive secretary. “The economic consequences of decarbonizing our economy are fundamentally positive because they will strengthen the economy. They will provide millions of new jobs.”
    But Figueres, who co-authored the new book “The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis” with Tom Rivett-Carnac, said she does find hope elsewhere in this crisis.
    “I think we have learned a couple of things that will be very helpful. One is that global challenges have no national boundaries. No one is geographically immune to coronavirus or to climate change,” she said. “The second is that global challenges require both systemic changes [and] individual behavior changes. We've proven that we can do that quite quickly.
    “We're also seeing little eruptions, perhaps, of incredible solidarity, of empathy, frankly, of love for neighbor,” Figueres continued. “And it is that mindset — that we're all in this together, that actually we can do big things if we collaborate radically with each other — that is going to help us als...

    • 12 min.
    Coming soon to a store near you: carbon labels

    Coming soon to a store near you: carbon labels

    We're all familiar with food labels that detail calories, carbohydrates and fat content. Now there's a push to add labels that detail a product’s carbon footprint. Organizations that certify companies’ carbon math and offer the labels have been cropping up across the globe.
    “When I spoke to the Carbon Trust here in the U.K.,” said WIRED UK commissioning editor Oliver Franklin-Wallis, “they said that the demand for this has just gone crazy in the last 18 months, both from consumers and from companies who now see it as a competitive advantage to be seen to be taking action on the climate crisis.”
    Franklin-Wallis recently wrote about the trend and said the idea, which has been around for many years, is also taking off because it’s gotten easier to calculate a product’s carbon footprint. He used a carton of eggs as an example.
    "It is actually quite complicated because it's not just, you know, the trucks that you're delivering the eggs in. It's the feed of the chickens. It's heating the housing that they're going into. It's, you know, all sorts of packaging,” Franklin-Wallis said. “More recently, the science of calculating carbon footprints has come a long way.”

    • 4 min.
    Cities are trying to limit gas hookups in new buildings — chefs are 'horrified'

    Cities are trying to limit gas hookups in new buildings — chefs are 'horrified'

    Burning natural gas emits about half the carbon of coal, but producing and burning natural gas is still a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. That's why some cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City, are trying to limit or outright ban gas hookups for new buildings.
    In their climate action plans, Minneapolis and St. Paul say they also want to transition away from natural gas appliances.
    But what would that mean for those who love to cook over a natural gas flame?
    “Chefs are horrified at the idea of giving up their gas stoves,” said Tom Philpott, the food and agriculture correspondent for Mother Jones. He recently wrote about the topic.
    “I talked to a chef in Chicago. He said that he would exit the business if he had to give up his gas stove,” Philpott said. “I think that there is this clinging to the idea of seeing the flame come up and calibrating how hot you're cooking medium is by looking at the flame.”
    Gas stoves only account for about 3 percent of a household’s natural gas use; the rest comes from furnaces and water heaters. But Philpott said the move from gas hookups in buildings is going to take changing people’s minds about cooking with electricity.
    ”I don't think people really care where their heat comes from. Electric heat is fine as long as it's keeping you warm,” he said. “But the thing that people will demand is keeping their gas stoves, and we've got to figure out a way to make people not do that because, in order to address climate change, we basically have to stop essentially all gas use.”
    Natural gas emits methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. While electric or induction stoves could draw on carbon-emitting power, Philpott said the power grid is getting greener every day.
    “When you turn on your gas stove, you are cooking with a 100 percent fossil fuels,” he said. “When you turn the switch on an induction range or a regular electric range, you're getting power from the power grid. And the power grid right now in ...

    • 4 min.
    Summit shows you don't have to be a lobbyist — or an adult — to lobby your state rep

    Summit shows you don't have to be a lobbyist — or an adult — to lobby your state rep

    Climate change experts tell us that, while changing your personal behavior will help, it's going to take major policy change to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
    So, what can you do to help shift policy?
    Dozens of Minnesota teens found out at the Youth Climate Justice Summit at the state Capitol this week. Organized by Youth Environmental Activists Minnesota and Climate Generation, the event gave students pointers on how to advocate for change and a chance to put them to work in meetings with lawmakers.
    If that sounds intimidating, 15-year-old Adri Arquin of St. Paul said it shouldn’t.
    “Lawmakers are people. They're all former teachers. They all held other jobs within their lifetime and they've just decided to run for office,” he said. “They're not scary.”
    Arquin sits on the Minnesota Youth Council, which advises legislators and the governor on issues that young people care about. In 2017, he went to Germany for a UN Climate Summit. And last year he helped organize the climate strike that brought thousands of students to the state Capitol.
    “This is an existential threat to us as a society. And it's our job to fight for the people that can't fight for themselves,” Arquin said. “We have shown that we are able, as youth, to bring out so many people to support our cause of climate justice and climate activism. We have really been the ones that are sparking change inside this legislature and inside this government right now.”
    So what's Arquin's formula for making his case to lawmakers?

    • 4 min.
    Your social media could give scientists a more accurate picture of climate change

    Your social media could give scientists a more accurate picture of climate change

    Climate change means more flooding, but the way we traditionally measure flooding isn't telling us how much more. There are just 132 tidal gauges along the East and Gulf coasts’ 3,700 miles.
    So a new study in the journal Nature Communications turned to the millions of people along the coasts who are walking around with smartphones that can photograph and tweet about floods. It focused on “nuisance” floods that may not be reported but can disrupt daily life.
    “Major, disastrous flooding events do generate a lot of attention. They are very consequential and they are costly. But climate change also presents us with these kind of chronic impacts that are also costly — particularly if they are affecting a large number of people and they're doing it very regularly,” said Frances Moore, a co-author on the study and University of California Davis environmental science professor. “People are not able to get to school, not able to get to work. The driving conditions are dangerous. This type of study can start to get at some of those costs.”
    It found that people on Twitter were reporting flooding at a lower tide level than a flood gauge would detect.

    • 4 min.

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