A continued warming trend in Minnesota is cause for concern, says a coalition of environmental and economic development groups that want a state agency to take action. Others are more skeptical.
Minnesotans for an Energy Efficient Economy has asked the state Environmental Quality Board to set up a task force and conduct a major environmental study.
"Many places across Minnesota are warming at more than twice the rate of the worldwide average," said Michael Noble, executive director of Minnesotans for an Energy Efficient Economy.
The coalition says the state is showing significant signs of global warming based on its analysis of 100-year temperature patterns at 33 Minnesota weather stations.
The Environmental Quality Board's director did not immediately return a telephone call.
One skeptic warned that the state should be careful about taking on an issue that has been difficult for top climatologists.
"We have a lot more questions than answers on global warming," said Marsha Kelly, communications director for Partners for Affordable Energy.
Her group is a coalition of regional utilities, co-ops, labor unions and others involved with coal-based energy.
The temperatures at the 33 Minnesota locations came from data sent to the U.S. Historical Climatology Network in North Carolina from 1897 to 1996. The results showed that 20 of the sites had average temperature increases between 1 and 3.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Seven sites showed increases of less than 1 degree and six sites had slight decreases in their average temperatures during the past century.
Noble said two federal climatologists and one scientist from the University of Minnesota in Duluth reviewed and approved the methods used to collect and present the data. J. Drake Hamilton, director of policy and science for the environmental coalition, said there is greater than 95 percent statistical certainty that most of the increases did not occur by chance but are part of an overall trend.
They want the board to confirm the results with their own study and look at more sites.
Kelly said the environmental groups and some scientists are making a huge leap by concluding that the climate is changing just because temperatures seem to be slightly higher.
"What most climatologists will tell you is that it's not very useful to look only at 100-year time periods," she said. "The world has seen warming and cooling trends over much longer periods of time."
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