But the bill took an unexpected detour when state Sen. Beau McCoy (R) introduced an amendment limiting the study to “cyclical” climate causes, like volcanic eruptions or solar variations.

In short, climate scientists funded to do the research by the state and for the state legislature to use in making climate-related decisions would not be permitted to consider human activity (the biggest driving factor of climate change) in their reports.

Typically, climate scientists that blame global warming on these “cyclical” causes are climate deniers that don’t believe in human-caused climate change. Limiting the study to cyclical causes would bias the report against the actual truth of climate change — that it’s human-caused. And if it had gone through, would have funded a report that could only be called climate denial.

Scientists fight back

The proposed $44,000-and-very-limited-in-scope study did not impress climate scientists in the state. To adequately prepare for the coming environmental changes — and their repercussions — the state needs a study that will accurately represent the latest climate science data and not be hampered by legislative add-ons that diminish their ability to attack the problem logically.

So, a group of climate scientists at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln reportedly chose to snub the state-sponsored study and, instead, started their own project, commissioned and funded by the university’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources — a synthesis report evaluating the latest science on climate change and its implications for the state of Nebraska.

Their report, which addresses the effects of human-caused climate change, was published in September by the university. Here are some of their findings.

Temperatures will continue rising

The climate scientists predict Nebraska will see a rise in temperature by anywhere from 4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. And they expect the number of days with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees each summer to keep increasing, gaining 13-25 days by the end of the century.

These maps, referenced by the report’s authors, show two scenarios: one in which future greenhouse gas emissions are low and one in which they are high. In the lower emissions scenario, temperatures are expected to increase by 4-5 degrees, and in the higher emissions scenario they are expected to increase by 8-9 degrees.

Temperature_Change_1National Climate Assessment/Kenneth Kunkel, Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites – NC

Nebraska will be hit from both sides: There will be more heavy rainfall events AND more droughts


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Flickr Flooding of the Missouri River along the Nebraska-Iowa border in 2011.

When it rains, it pours in Nebraska.

The Great Plains region has already seen a 16 percent increase in the amount of precipitation falling during very heavy events since 1958, and scientists expect this trend to continue. Increased heavy rain and snowfall leads to more, bigger flood events.

On the other hand, Nebraska’s dry seasons will become even more intense. Droughts will become more frequent and more severe, especially during the summer months.

A combination of droughts and rising temperatures will cause soil moisture to decrease by between 1 and 10 percent, and the number of heat waves will increase.

This dry trend isn’t new. These data, released in September 2012 by the US Drought Monitor, show just how devastating 2012 was. It was Nebraska’s hottest and driest year on record, and scientists only expect drought frequency and severity to increase in the future:


US Drought Monitor

These changes will have huge impacts on Nebraska’s main moneymaker: agriculture

Rising temperatures, bigger storms, and more frequent droughts could have devastating impacts on Nebraska’s agriculture sector. Scientists predict that these events could damage crop yields, decrease the amount of forage available for livestock, and diminish the amount of water available for irrigation.

Nebraska_Ag_1Jan Tik/Flickr Irrigation system near Fort Calhoun, Nebraska.

While the scientists were putting together their unaffiliated report, the state of Nebraska abandoned its own study.

A press release from Gov. Dave Heineman (R) stated: “Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources have stated they would conduct a University study, therefore negating the need for a climate change study authorized by the Legislature.”

According to ThinkProgress, Heineman has never stated his beliefs on climate change. On the other hand, McCoy, the state senator who proposed the “cyclical” amendment to Haar’s bill calling for a study, has been known to question the existence of human-caused climate change.

In a letter to Nebraska’s Lincoln Journal Star last year, responding to the newspaper’s coverage of the bill and the state climate change study, McCoy wrote, “No, science has not proven, nor is there universal agreement in the scientific community, that manmade climate change exists.” He added, “I will never back down from protecting Nebraska agriculture, manufacturing, business and every citizen from the effects of the environmental extremism.”

Luckily, this time his efforts failed. The people of Nebraska will still have to deal with the effects of climate change — even if their state senators aren’t willing to admit they are already happening.