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Lawmakers Mull Expanding Outreach To Farmers, Communities About Climate Change

St. Paul, Minn. (WCCO) -- Minnesota would have one of the first coordinated climate service -- "weather ready" —programs in the country if a proposal passes at the state legislature, a climate expert told lawmakers Thursday.

A bill in the House would provide funding to the University of Minnesota Extension Service to hire more people to dispatch outside the Twin Cities and help communities prepare for climate change and its impacts on agriculture and infrastructure.

Last year, the legislature funded a study generating state weather model projections at a level of detail as granular as three-square miles of land. Increasing staff would better communicate this research, said Dr. Heidi Roop, assistance professor of climate science who works as an extension specialist.

"Our vision is really to add that capacity within extension so that communities have a source of support for using, applying and benefitting from this investment the state has made in the generation of the data," she said.

She told a House committee that the office can't keep pace with demand for assistance from local partners, but said adding 10 additional positions across the state would "close the gap between research and reports, and practice and the real world."

Rep. Patty Acomb, DFL-Minnetonka, who sponsored the bill said it would be a "beneficial program" that would also help local governments leverage new funding in the bipartisan infrastructure law approved by Congress last year.

Roop noted that some available funding from that law require details in proposals about what climate risks are for the community in order to be eligible.

"We can actually help communities articulate those risks so that they can be competitive to secure those federal dollars," Roop said.

There is another proposal to fund more research extreme weather events' impact on publicly-owned buildings and ways to minimize and prevent damage.

State climate projections show more intense rains in our future. Roop said Minnesota is getting "warmer and wetter."

In the last two years, 11 of the 17 major natural disasters in Minnesota were categorized as thunderstorms, according to Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management.


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