Political denial derailed Neb. climate study bill in 2013 

E&E • Posted: Monday, December 8, 2014

In Nebraska last year, partisan politics got in the way of a state-run study that would have assessed potential climate change impacts.

In January 2013, state Sen. Ken Haar (D) introduced a bill for climate researchers to analyze the effects climate change will have on Nebraska.

But the measure was quickly dragged down after Sen. Beau McCoy (R) tacked on an amendment that would require any research under the bill to be focused on “cyclical” climate changes, like volcanic eruptions, rather than man-made emissions.

To augment the minor funding provided under such limited constraints — just $44,000 — scientists at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, launched their own project with help from the university’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The report that emerged spelled out just what Nebraska — a state that relies heavily on its agricultural sector to buoy its economy — could lose without climate preparation.

For Nebraska, temperatures will rise 4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, and residents will experience 13 to 25 more days hotter than 100 F by 2100, the scientists found. Such conditions would hamper livestock and crop yields, as well as crimp available water supplies for irrigation.

The American Great Plains have seen a 16 percent jump in precipitation during heavy rain events since 1958; scientists predict heavy rains will become increasingly common while droughts will become longer and more severe. Nebraska’s hottest year on record was 2012.

While the university researchers were crunching climate statistics for their report, the state dropped its study. Responding in the Lincoln Journal Star, McCoy denied the existence of climate change.

“No, science has not proven, nor is there universal agreement in the scientific community, that manmade climate change exists,” he wrote. “I will never back down from protecting Nebraska agriculture, manufacturing, business and every citizen from the effects of environmental extremism” (Chelsea Harvey, Business Insider, Dec. 2). — BH