Will Steger: Climate change now visible in Minnesota

Will Steger
Will Steger at his exhibit "Inside an Explorer's Mind: Survival, Innovation, Design" Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 at Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minneapolis.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Minnesota Will Steger is best known for his expeditions to places like the North Pole and Antarctica. He's the founder of the Will Steger Foundation, and has been a prominent voice on climate change for more than a decade.

While his original work brought stories of climate change from the Arctic, the movement is growing because people can now witness the change in their backyards.

"I see a big change in public opinion in the last two or three years because it's no longer an eyewitness in the Arctic, it's an eyewitness in Minnesota," Steger told Tom Weber on The Daily Circuit.

Steger led a historic trip to the North Pole in 1986, the first recorded dog sled journey there without resupply:

Today, that trip wouldn't be possible, he said.

"You couldn't do it because of the open ocean," he said. "In order to the reach the pole right now you'd need some sort of floatation. It's totally changed."

Steger now spends some of his time near Ely, Minn.

"What we're seeing up there are these incredibly powerful winds that carry heavy rain and what they do is knock down the virgin pines, so there's no seed trees," he said. "Then the deciduous trees take over. I've seen a drastic change in the leaf trees taking over the coniferous."

Steger turned 70 last year and said he hopes to see measurable change in his lifetime.

"I hope before I'm over the horizon here we'll be off of coal for sure and what you'll see is most of our energy economy will be within the state," he said. "It's going to be a much cleaner, prosperous environment, but it will be a changed world."