It’s 2020. We are entering a new decade -- time to reflect on where we have been and where we are going.

Here at RiverTown Multimedia, we have had many conversations about our 2020 vision. We’ve asked a lot of questions. What news is most important for our readers? How should we spend our time, energy, and resources?

In those conversations, we’ve realized that we have shortchanged one very important topic: climate change. It is considered by many scientists, politicians, and business executives as the largest problem facing humankind. It deserves more space in our newspapers and on our website.

Starting today, we are launching a four-part series which was inspired by the Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College last September. The theme was “Climate Changed: Facing Our Future.” Yes, the past tense on that title was intentional, and the speakers who presented at the two-day event were also intentional. For each speaker, climate change has become their lifework.

Their messages were moving, thoughtful, and powerful. The information they provided reflects the knowledge we have gained on our shifting world, data that is readily available to anyone with a few minutes and an internet connection.

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Websites such as NASA’s “Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet” make it clear that climate change is a problem worth our attention.

The site states, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”

That belief is the foundation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nation’s body for assessing science related to climate change and the recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

The IPCC made its viewpoint transparent by stating, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

It’s important to hear those opinions from national and international organizations, but it is also vital to listen to people closer to home.

In Minnesota, the Department of Transportation released a 44-page report in September titled “Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation in Minnesota.”

The report, available on the agency's website, outlines several steps MnDOT will take to reduce carbon emissions. The state would announce members of the new MnDOT Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council as early as this week.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical to MnDOT’s vision of maximizing the health of people, the environment and our economy,” Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher said.

In Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources teamed with the University of Wisconsin Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies to form the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. The organization studies climate change data, identifies concerns in the state, and helps plan for adaptations based on climate change.

“Some adaptation efforts will be reactive, handling situations as they arise. But WICCI strives to be pro-active, anticipating challenges and preparing for them ahead of time,” notes the WICCI website. “Effective planning and preparation could help save wildlife, property, money and even lives.”

On both sides of the Mississippi River, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, released in November 2018, examined, among other things, the effects of natural disasters in cities and areas along the river.

“The Mississippi River Corridor has already sustained over $200 billion in disaster impacts since 2005 with six of the 10 Mississippi River states incurring more than $10 billion in losses for each state,” according to the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative.

In September, Livable Planet MN held climate conversations in several locations throughout the state, including Red Wing, with the resulting ideas being collected and posted online, as well as sent to Gov. Tim Walz.

It’s time to talk about a difficult topic. To start, we’ll offer four articles based on speakers at the Nobel Conference. A sidebar with comments one of the region's entities will accompany each major article. Later, we’ll offer occasional articles on other topics related to climate change in hopes that we can all learn more and enter the conversation to help find solutions.