Friday, January 11, Carleton students, staff, and faculty, along with other members of the Northfield community, filed into Skinner Memorial Chapel to hear Dr. Mark Seeley’s talk titled, “Climate Change in Minnesota: Evidence and Implications”. Dr. Seeley is a climatologist and meteorologist from the University of Minnesota and has worked as a professor in its Soil, Water, and Climate Department since 1976.
Following his lecture, Dr.Seeley signed copies of his 2006 book Minnesota Weather Almanac. It is a history of 200 years of “Minnesota weather featuring stories, fun facts, scientific lessons, and the best questions from the MPR Annual State Fair Weather Quiz broadcast on its midday program. The book is an attempt to describe the history of weather all the way back to 1806,” said Dr. Seeley. Copies of the book can be found in Carleton’s bookstore.
In addition to teaching and writing, Dr. Seeley also appears on “WeatherTalk,” a Public Radio Morning Edition program that airs every Friday morning at 6:50. Dr. Seeley acts as their Minnesota climate and weather contact. In addition, Dr. Seeley has edited the Amazing Science Series, a line of books for children that teaches subjects as diverse as water, soil, magnets, and sound.
During convocation, Dr. Seeley spoke about how environmental issues resonate with our values. He described his talk as Climate Change 101 and offered both a scientific and a citizenship perspective. “Climate change is not 100% about greenhouse gases,” said Dr. Seeley, who discussed among other topics: carbon dioxide levels, global temperature trends, economic losses due to weather catastrophes, seasonal shifts, the hydrologic cycle “wetter wet, drier dry”, water vapor feedback over oceans and landmasses, precipitation, and the need for societal action.
Dr. Seeley also educated the audience on the different ways of perceiving climate change. “I would argue that the Jeffersonian view of climate behavior is the one the American infrastructure is founded on: our interstate highway system, our water supply system, our water navigation system, our electric utility grid…all of that is fundamentally premised on a stationary view of climate behavior,” he said.
Dr. Seeley showed that our “perturbance of landscapes” has an effect on the climate. According to the data he presented, differences in temperature can be seen both on a local and global level. His statistics were current and highly relevant, and he was able to relate to his audience, especially the members of the Northfield community when he discussed subjects such as fishing, construction season, and the I-35 bridge collapse. He also mentioned the Minnesota Mayo Clinic and its increase in patients due to molds and allergies, which he connected to the lengthening of the summer season associated with climate trends. Further, he spoke about the increases in the deaths of people and livestock between 1995 and 1999 due to increases in Minnesota’s heat index.
Dr. Seeley believes that climate change is more than just a matter of science. As he said, “this is a point of citizen-science perspective… as climate change is certainly going to be, for the balance of our lifetime, a major issue and it’s not just about science.” He also stated, “I have a philanthropic gene, which causes me to care deeply about certain things. I am sure you all have things you care about deeply too…but climate change is real and it will be differential. It will be life changing, operating in the background of whatever it is you care deeply about. I would like you to give some considerable thought to what implications climate change might mean for that thing that you care deeply about. And the other thing that’s important is to contemplate a perspective that science and technology will not solve this. As a community we should be giving more attention to conservation. Don’t sit back and think that science and technology are going to make this go away.”
Dr. Seeley urged his audience to “pay close attention to our ever increasing vulnerability.” He sees our solution to this challenge in what he calls a common value system. “If we can give more consideration to this [common value system] I’m optimistic that we can solve this situation and make it better in the end or at least give greater hope to our children and grandchildren.”
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