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Will Duluth become a climate refuge city?

Artistic Image of the Great Lakes from a satellite
February 14, 2019

Climate summit addresses critical challenges and opportunities.

UMD will present "Our Climate Futures: Meeting the Challenges in Duluth," a conference to address the climate challenges facing Minnesota. The public is invited to a series of events on March 19-20 on the UMD campus and at the Natural Resources Research Institute. 

Jesse Keenan

Jesse Keenan

The conference keynote speaker, Jesse Keenan, will speak on "Destination Duluth: The Fact and Fiction of a Shared Climate Future.” Keenan's presentation is on Wednesday, March 20 at 7 pm in the Marshall Performing Arts Center. 

It will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Emily Larson (City of Duluth Mayor), Karen Diver (College of St. Scholastica and member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), Al Rudeck (Allete Clean Energy), with Andrea Schokker (UMD) as moderator.

For free tickets to the keynote event see https://z.umn.edu/SharedClimateFuture or contact the MPAC box office at 218-726-8561.

About the Conference

The conference is aimed at helping direct Northern Minnesota's next steps. Sixteen sessions and a keynote address will be held over the course of the two days. Panelists will include representatives from academia, government, and businesses.

Central to the conference are conversations about future planning and how communities can adapt to climate change in Minnesota. “Minnesota has already begun climate mitigation techniques such as using alternative energy and reducing its carbon footprint,” said Patrick Schoff, a research associate at the Natural Resources Research Institute. “This conference will be invaluable as the consequences of climate change become increasingly apparent.”

Julie Etterson, professor of biology in UMD’s Swenson College of Science and Engineering, said, "Native Minnesotans, like myself, realize that climate change is already upon us. We know that lake ice is forming later and going out earlier.  We know that spring comes earlier and that we can grow tomatoes and actually hope to get some ripe ones by the end of summer!  In contrast, in other regions in the U.S., it is possible that unbearable weather and coastal flooding will set off a wave of human migration seeking more tolerable conditions."

About Jesse Keenan

Jesse Keenan is a member of the faculty of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. His work is focused on climate change adaptation and the built environment, including aspects of design, engineering, financing and planning.

Keenan said, "In an age of climate migration, we tend to focus on displacement and not necessarily the economic mobility associated with changing consumer preferences. In one iteration of a climate future, Duluth may be well positioned to accommodate a diverse influx of people, culture, and capital associated with a national redistribution of people and places. The question for Duluth moving forward is whether strategic economic development and marketing can be mobilized under a set of community-drive values that, together, paint a vision of a shared climate future."

Keenan is a member of the United States delegation to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. He has advised on matters concerning the built environment for agencies of the U.S. government, governors, mayors, Fortune 500 companies, technology ventures, community enterprises and international nongovernmental organizations.

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The conference is hosted by the UMD Research Scholarship and Creative Activities Committee and Institute on the Environment - Duluth with financial support from the UMD Distinguished Visiting Speakers Series Endowment, University for Seniors, Natural Resources Research Institute, and Minnesota Sea Grant.

Contact For more information, contact Patrick Schoff, Research Associate, Natural Resources Research Institute, pschoff@d.umn.edu, 281-788-2768.

Learn more about the Climate Futures Conference
About NRRI