Climate experts and private citizens joined together on Monday to discuss climate change's effect on the Brainerd area-and what to do about it.

Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy held a convening on climate change at Central Lakes College's cafeteria. Monday's event was one in a series of 12 convenings held across the state on how climate change affects Minnesotans.

CLC President Larry Lundblad kicked off the night by saying that a growing amount of scientific evidence supports the facts of climate change.

"Our economy and way of life as we know it will be changing over time," he said.

Dr. Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota Extension climatologist, headlined the event with remarks that covered specifically how climate change puts Minnesota's way of life at risk.

He began by pointing out the state was world-renowned for the variability of its weather. However, a trend shift weighing on the state's climatologists tells Seeley and his colleagues that the state needs to change the way it operates as its climate changes around it. Minnesota's climate is changing more dramatically than other states, he said.

"We want to see those systems still work efficiently and effectively even with the changed climate," he said. "This body of evidence is a mandate to adapt."

For central Minnesota and the Brainerd area, all seasons are warmer, more steeply so in winter, he said. In Brainerd specifically, there was in increase of 3.8 degrees in the average January minimum temperature. The trend impacts heat and humidity during the summer, too-Brainerd's heat index was 105 degrees during Minnesota's nationally-record breaking day for heat on July 19/20 in 2011.

Climate change means a higher frequency in heavy thunderstorm rainfall and Minnesota cities need to design their storm sewer systems around the trend, Seeley said. Other consequences include changes in public health, fisheries management, increased flooding potential and increased insured loss.

"These data are screaming at us," he said.

After Seeley spoke, a panel of locals described practical solutions they had found to help adapt to climate change.

Mike Duval, district manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Division of Ecological and Water Resources, talked about how climate change affects the high-dollar tourism industry of fishing in Minnesota. There's a statewide decline in a coldwater fish called cisco, an important part of the diet of game fish such as walleye.

As climate change develops, water temperatures increase, and cisco flee to colder regions deeper in the lake-but deep water has less oxygen, so the fish die off, Duval said.

Duval suggested to the audience that they could protect key cisco lakes by supporting their local land conservation district and maintaining their property in a way that keeps stormwater runoff from contaminating nearby water bodies.

"If you own forested land, keep it forested," he said.

Visit www.climategen.org/ to find out more about Climate Generation.

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser.