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ISSUE 121 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/9/2008

Klobuchar heads forum

By Aaron Heidgerken
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 9, 2008

Environmentalists and policy advocates united as United States Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) visited St. Olaf Saturday afternoon in the Christensen Hall of Music. As Klobuchar joined with St. Olaf students and faculty panelists, the forum focused on the current policy issues and measures being taken to address global climate change.

"I am an optimist and I believe in science," Klobuchar said. "Meeting challenges is what we do best in this country, and global climate change is our next big challenge." Klobuchar acknowledged the shift that has occurred in the debate on climate change before Congress in the nation as a whole.

"There is no longer a debate around whether or not global climate change exists," she said. "Now we have turned our focus to solutions and policy issues."

The rising sea levels and declining lake levels that are a result of all the carbon emissions are a concern for many Minnesotans. Farmers, fishermen and hunters are all concerned for the changing landscape and are beginning to take action to further their cause in the Minnesota government.

"I don't believe we're going to fail because I see the ingenuity and determination here at St. Olaf and elsewhere in our communities and the entire nation," Klobuchar said. "All we need is a little more imagination in Washington."

Among the issues addressed were the need for renewable energy, the current status of cellulose and other forms of ethanol and carbon sequestration. Investing in farmers and workers in the Midwest for our energy versus oil cartels in the Middle East will not only benefit the environment but will also support job growth and the local economy.

With the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act being considered in Congress, if it is passed there will be a cap on greenhouse gas emissions. The bill has a goal of seeing a 70 percent reduction by 2050. As environmental issues begin to take center stage in public forums, the states have tended to show more leadership than in Washington.

"This debate is necessary for this country," Klobuchar said. "Next year we are certain that some sort of climate change legislation will be passed given our Presidential candidates."

In a video taken on a visit to Greenland, Klobuchar investigates the 20 percent loss of the polar ice caps since 1979. She alluded to the significant rise in temperature and loss of ice.

"Ice chunks the size of Texas and Arizona have completely melted away," she said. "This is a very substantial decline for a country which is composed of 85 percent ice."

Klobuchar is a leading advocate in Washington representing the environmental issues that affect Minnesotans as well the greater population. She was joined with St. Olaf professor of physics Bob Jacobel, who discussed many of the measures that are being taken around campus to ensure sustainable environmental policies.

The new science complex will be one of the few buildings in the nation that meets the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum standard for environmentally sustainable construction. The Environmental Studies department has also received a grant from the National Science Foundation for their Polaris Project, designed at researching transformations in the carbon cycle in the Siberian Arctic.

"Recently we have seen the discipline of environmental studies rise from a concentration to a major," Jacobel said. "This is consistent with the greater ecological transition of this country to promote sustainable policies and green jobs."

Also among the panelists were Alexa Tennyson '08, Christian Balzer '08 and Katherine Huber '09, who addressed student initiatives at St. Olaf for sustainable environmental use. With its more than 700 acres of natural lands, students have introduced the St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works (STOGROW) and a new low carbon diet from Bon Appetit.

"This behavioral change won't do it without the new and innovative policies in Washington," Tennyson told Klobuchar. "In being a leader of these policies you do have our support and we are behind you."

The forum is available for viewing online through St. Olaf's multimedia archives.

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