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Fresh Energy Science Policy Director J. Drake Hamilton said now is the time to do something about climate change. (Jason Adkins/DL Newspapers)

Climate change could make Minnesota a lot like Kansas

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DETROIT LAKES -- Climate change could make the lakes area feel like Kansas if left unchecked, said a representative of a St. Paul Based clean energy think tank Monday evening during a presentation at M State in Detroit Lakes.

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J. Drake Hamilton, a Science Policy Director for Fresh Energy, said that climate change would make hot summers a year-to-year occurrence instead of a rarity by 2050, with the Twin Cities seeing over 70 days with highs above 90 degrees and 30 days with highs above 100 degrees.

"That would be a normal summer by the middle of this century if we don't take action," Hamilton said.

Other consequences of unchecked climate change includes increased flooding and drought cycles.

Hamilton said taking action includes providing incentives for businesses to invest in clean energy technologies, creating a green economy that would provide jobs and reducing the United States' dependence on foreign oil.

The market has failed in promoting clean energy, Hamilton said.

"The investment community isn't seeing a profit in clean energy," Hamilton said.

Turning that around means the government taking a role in rewarding those who invest in it.

"We need to send a clear signal to the entrepreneur and investment community," Hamilton said.

The flip side of promoting green energy is what to do with companies that emit greenhouse gases.

Lawmakers are looking to pass a climate bill through Congress that would limit just that.

A proposal to limit greenhouse gases by taxing companies that exceed a pre-determined limit on greenhouse gas emissions was passed by the U.S. House of Representative in June by a 219-212 vote.

Rep. Colin Peterson was a key swing vote for Democrats, especially as he is the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

He sponsored an amendment to have the federal Department of Agriculture instead of the Environmental Protection Agency regulate some greenhouse gas emissions if the House bill is signed into law.

A Senate version of the bill is due to be introduced Wednesday.

Hamilton said that some organizations are trying to scare the public into thinking that the climate bill would lead to skyrocketing energy bills.

She said that from what she's seen, including an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, the average household would see an increase of $168 to their energy bill in 2020.

The Wall Street Journal in a June 22 editorial said that figure is correct, but undercuts what would happen just a few years after 2020. The article said that the cap-and-trade bill's provisions for taxing greenhouse gas emissions are less in the early years to placate conservative Democrats.

But it said that taxes on greenhouse gas emissions skyrocket after 2020 to get support from liberal Democrats.

Other cost scenarios see the average household paying nearly $2,000 in additional energy costs in 2020 as a result of the bill if passed.

Ultimately, Hamilton said that while people can argue about how much greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut, it needs to start somewhere. She said that government would set science-based limits and step out of the way.

She said the Europeans on average emit about one-half the greenhouse gasses of Americans.

By 2020, she said climate scientists say that greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 17 percent; and by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions have to be reduced by 80 percent to stave off global warming.

"I'm not suggesting this is a transition we need to make," Hamilton said.

For individuals, she said that simple changes, so-called low-hanging fruit, helps.

She said that programmable thermostats help with heating costs and proper insulation provides additional savings.

Some people don't necessarily care about their carbon footprint, Hamilton said.

"For some, it's about how much carbon you save and for others, it's about how much money you save," Hamilton said.

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