Claudia Egelhoff

Claudia Egelhoff: Fighting Climate Change

Thanks to Amore Coffee for their support.

Scientists predict that Minnesota’s climate will resemble Kansas in 60 years. Winters will be 16 degrees warmer on average, and 38.5% wetter.

Climate change is a reality.

And fighting back starts at the local level. West St. Paul resident Claudia Egelhoff has led the charge, pushing for a resolution from City Council. That resolution, which urges Congress to take action, already went through the Environmental Committee and will likely come up at the Dec. 9 City Council meeting.

“The climate crisis is the most important challenge facing the world.”

Claudia Egelhoff

Local Environmentalist

Egelhoff is a retired public health educator and health services researcher. She’s been a member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby since 2014. She’s led presentations and workshops on climate change and lobbied members of Congress. Egelhoff takes part in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Counts and other citizen science projects with birds.

Originally from Wisconsin, Egelhoff went to Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., lived in Massachusetts and North Carolina, before returning to the Midwest in 2001 and moving to West St. Paul in 2015.

Locally, Egelhoff is also a member of the West St. Paul ACT on Alzheimer’s group.

Talking Climate Change With Claudia

We talked with Egelhoff about climate change and West St. Paul:

You’ve been working on a climate change resolution for a few years now. Why is this issue important to you?

The climate crisis is the most important challenge facing the world at this time. We will not be able to assure security, opportunity, liberty, and the beauty of the natural world to future generations if we do not end greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a clean energy economy.

Every time we get a cold snap there are comments about the “hoax” of global warming. How do you respond to those attitudes?

I don’t ask anyone to believe in climate change but simply to consider the overwhelming evidence. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, our burning of fossil fuels has steadily increased the carbon dioxide content of Earth’s atmosphere. For many decades, we enjoyed the benefits of such fuels without realizing that the increased atmospheric carbon was trapping heat and hastening global climate change. Today, we understand that climate change carries potentially catastrophic health, environmental, and economic costs.

What kind of climate change impact does (or will) West St. Paul experience?

Real changes in Minnesota’s climate are already impacting the health and welfare of West St Paul residents: 

  • Increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are leading to increases in ambient temperatures, which in turn are leading to extremes in precipitation. 
  • Atmospheric influences (GHG emissions, temperature, precipitation, humidity) are directly or indirectly causing disruptions in four key aspects of the human environment—air, weather, water, and ecosystems. Changes in these areas are in turn leading to situations that threaten the health and vitality of human communities through increased air pollution, extreme heat events, floods, droughts and ecosystem threats

See the report from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Your resolution encourages Congress to take action. What good does it do for a local municipality to push Congress? Given the gridlock nature of Washington, do you have hope there will be progress on the national level?

One of the most impactful ways to express the will of the people for Congressional action on climate is through resolutions from local municipal governing bodies. City councils and boards of supervisors are in touch with their communities every day, are attentive to local voices, and can send strong messages on behalf of their entire citizenry. When a city, county, or state passes a resolution, they are sending a message to Congress on behalf of many thousands of people.

Contrary to common opinion, action on climate is a “bridge issue” in Congress; there are serious bipartisan caucuses in both the House and Senate discussing climate solutions. There is a bipartisan bill in the House calling for pricing carbon with over 60 sponsors, including Representative Angie Craig.

What are some other ways people can get involved in protecting the environment and fighting climate change, especially on a local level?

There are as many opportunities for action on climate as there are colors in the rainbow! From reducing your own carbon footprint in energy use, purchasing, and travel to supporting the many groups working for policy change at the local and state level. Support young people who are “striking” to put pressure on elected officials to take action; support your faith community to have a sustainability plan for its facilities and operations; and support groups like Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy that advocate for sensible state energy and environmental policies. I prefer to be a member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change.

Thanks to Claudia Egelhoff for her work on climate change on behalf of West St. Paul and for sharing her insights with us.

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