Public Release: 

Is Duluth, Minn., to become a climate refuge city?

Our climate futures: Meeting the challenges in Duluth

University of Minnesota

Duluth, Minn.- The University of Minnesota Duluth is hosting a conference aimed at directing Minnesota's next steps for dealing with climate change. "Our Climate Futures: Meeting the Challenge in Duluth" will be Tuesday, March 19 and Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

The conference is free and open to the public. Central to the conference are conversations about future planning and how Minnesota communities can adapt to climate change.

"Minnesota has already begun climate mitigation techniques such as using alternative energy and reducing its carbon footprint," says Patrick Schoff, a research associate at the UMD Natural Resources Research Institute and conference organizer. "This conference will be invaluable as the consequences of climate change become increasingly apparent."

The conference will include 16 sessions and a keynote address. Panelists include representatives from academia, government and business. Environmental scientists, community agency personnel and the public will convene for discussions about developing an economy that minimizes waste and resources, energy mitigation efforts, alternative energy sources, adaptive infrastructure and climate refuge areas.

The media is invited to cover any of the program sessions.

"Native Minnesotans, like myself, realize that climate change is already upon us. We know that lake ice is forming later and going out earlier," said Julie Etterson, professor of biology in UMD's Swenson College of Science and Engineering. "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."

The conference keynote speaker will be Jesse Keenan, 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.

"In an age of climate migration, we tend to focus on displacement and not necessarily the economic mobility associated with changing consumer preferences," said Keenan. "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."

Keenan's presentation, "Our Climate Futures: Meeting the Challenge in Duluth," will be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20 in the Marshall Performing Arts Center, 1215 Ordean Court, Duluth, Minnesota.

"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," said Keenan.

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.

The keynote presentation 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.



Patrick Schoff, Research Associate, Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth,, 281-788-2768. For free tickets to the keynote event, contact the MPAC box office at 218-726-8561.

About UMD

One of five campuses that comprise the University of Minnesota System, the University of Minnesota Duluth integrates liberal education, research, creative activity, and public engagement and prepares students to thrive as lifelong learners and globally engaged citizens. With an enrollment of over 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students, the Duluth campus offers 15 bachelor's degrees in 83 majors and 70 minors, and graduate programs in 26 fields. Visit

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