St. Paul mayor prepares to lead delegation to Paris climate summit

Published 11:01 am Friday, November 27, 2015

By Frederick Melo

St. Paul Pioneer Press

St. Paul — As the top executive of a Mississippi River city, Chris Coleman knows all too well how above-average snow and rainfall can upset the economy and chew through public resources, from threatening tourism to parks, river shipping and housing.

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The St. Paul mayor fears that a ready supply of moisture is already fueling dangerous storms, like the December 2010 blizzard that dumped more than 17 inches of unusually wet snow on the Minneapolis Metrodome, causing its roof to collapse.

“We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change,” said Coleman, in an interview Tuesday. “Average rainfall in Minnesota has increased over 20 percent in the last half-century.”

With an eye on public safety and economic concerns as much as the environment, the former president of the National League of Cities will head to Paris next week alongside as many as 70 officials from across Minnesota to participate in international talks on climate change.

Coleman will lead a delegation from the Mississippi Rivers Cities and Towns Initiative to COP21, also known as the Paris Climate Conference. The two-week summit is expected to draw up to 50,000 participants, about half of them informal observers.

Macalester College professor Roopali Phadke, an environmental policies specialist, plans to take all 10 students from her class on climate negotiations with her for the first week of the conference.

They’ll join students from St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, as well as young people from countries throughout the world. From Nov. 30 through Dec. 4, the Macalester students will blog about their experiences online at

“Minnesota is an important place to look at how climate change will impact the U.S.,” Phadke said.