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After Trump's Paris withdrawal, N.D. mayors voice mixed climate views

For mayors around the U.S.--and at least one in North Dakota--the fight to combat climate change is still on, despite President Donald Trump's avowed withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown speaks on June 29 to the Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald
Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown speaks on June 29 to the Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

For mayors around the U.S.-and at least one in North Dakota-the fight to combat climate change is still on, despite President Donald Trump's avowed withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

Many mayors are signing agreements and pledges to stay green despite Trump's rejection of the climate accords, which involves almost every country in the word. The "We are Still In" initiative, for example, claims the support of more than 1,200 "governors, mayors, businesses, investors and colleges and universities" in a pledge to work to meet the aims of the Paris agreement, and plans to report its progress fighting climate change to the U.N. The Mayors National Climate Action Agenda is a network of local mayors that already have been working to promote and effect climate-friendly policies.

North Dakota mayors are split on joining wider pacts to combat climate change-at least one says they're open to such a pact. Another isn't, and another says they wish they knew more about such a pledge's local effects.

Asked for his thoughts on joining a broader climate-change coalition, Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown said "there's evidence both ways" on the climate change debate.

"I think we need to be aware of that, with our industry and our agriculture and things like that, we can impact it," Brown said. "But do I-I'm still skeptical, a little bit, I guess. Is it global warming, or is it a natural (process)?"

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Brown said that he does not know if the principal cause of climate change is humans, and thus he would stop short of joining the mayors calling for more action on climate change.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said he's open to the idea of joining a pro-environmental a pact. He said Fargo is looking into ways to become more energy efficient, and expressed support for higher-efficiency, environmentally friendly measures in the city-like better landfill methane-capture technology and a continued dedication to sharing large-scale utility resources with nearby communities, decreasing the need for more utility projects.

Mahoney said he believes humans are the principal cause of climate change and pointed out the potential effects extra wetness and precipitation could have on local crops.

"I think what people should think about is the effects for their children and grandchildren," he said. "You don't want to be the guy who didn't do anything about it."

East Grand Forks Mayor Steve Gander said that he'd have to know more about how changes in environmental policy would work at the local level before he could join any larger initiatives, but supports being a good steward of the environment. He said international and federal regulations often have a way of forcing "bizarre" changes when they work their way down to the local level, but he is open to the possibility that humans are the leading cause of recently-observed climate change.

"If the research that we've gathered is good-and I'm not saying it's good or bad-but if it's good, then we have to say it's humans," he said.

Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary and Minot Mayor Chuck Barney were unable to be reached for comment.

Scientific consensus holds that humans are the principal cause of climate change. According to NASA, "most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is the expansion of the 'greenhouse effect'-warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from the Earth toward space."

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And it's more than just a coastal issue. Speaking in March, University of Minnesota associate professor Tracy Twine warned that the threats posed to North Dakota by climate change could include extreme weather, flooding and new precipitation patterns. Twine teaches in the school's soil, water and climate department.

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