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'Absurd' climate study definition prompts letter from senator

'Absurd' climate study definition prompts letter from senator

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The debate on global warming and climate change continued Tuesday with a letter from a Lincoln senator to colleagues in the Legislature.

Sen. Ken Haar's priority bill (LB583) in the 2013 session required a study on the effects of climate change in Nebraska on agriculture, water, wildlife, ecosystems and outdoor recreation. It was his intent, he said, that the study look at all causes of climate change equally.

But the request for information sent out by the Department of Agriculture on Monday defined cyclical climate change to mean "a change in the state of climate due to natural internal processes and only natural external forcings such as volcanic eruptions and solar variations."  

That definition violates both the explicit language and the intent of the bill, he said.

During the legislative session, at the urging of Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy, who disputes human involvement in global warming, the senators ultimately modified LB583 to study "cyclical" climate change.

Haar said he supported the amendment to take politics out of the bill. "Cyclical" change was not defined in the bill.  

In his letter sent Monday night, Haar asked 31 senators who voted to pass the bill to add their names to a request to the Department of Agriculture to eliminate that definition in the request for information related to the $44,000 study.

The Department of Agriculture posted the request Monday, said Bobbie Kriz-Wickham, assistant director of the department and chair of the Climate Assessment and Response Committee.

Kriz-Wickham wrote the request for information, based on discussion at last week's committee meeting and the committee's request that she define "cyclical" climate change. She did so after consulting other resources, she said Tuesday.

Haar said the definition was contrary to the plain language of the bill. The word cyclical was inserted into the bill, but purposefully not defined in order to take politics out of it and make the focus on science.

"Unfortunately, it appears that politics may be interfering with the purpose and intent of LB583," he said. "The attempt to create a definition of the word "cyclical" beyond its ordinary meaning, and making it the focus of the entire report, is contrary to the language of LB583."

Nowhere in the debate on the bill did it say the word cyclical added to the words climate change eliminates human activity, Haar said.

"I'm just wondering where they got that definition," he said.

It makes the state look absurd, he said.

Haar said the results of such an unscientific study that must consider factors such as volcanic eruptions and solar variations, and not human activity, would be meaningless to the Legislature and the industries of Nebraska trying to prepare for the future, and a waste of $44,000.

"It is my understanding that the University of Nebraska will not consider bidding on a study with such a limited scope and one which doesn't allow scientists to examine any and all causes of climate change, as this RFI (request for information) does," Haar wrote.

Haar appeared on the "Rachel Maddow Show" on Tuesday night to discuss the climate change debate in Nebraska.

Kriz-Wickham said that in writing the definition she was acting as the designated chair of the committee and carrying out members' wishes. They told her to define the word cyclical in the request for information, although they did not tell her specifically how to define it.

She sent a draft of the scope of work for the study, which included the definition, to the committee and no committee member responded to address the definition, she said.

Committee members, in addition to Kriz-Wickham, are from state agencies, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, agricultural producers and the Legislature. The governor's office oversees the committee and its activities.

Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or You can follow JoAnne's tweets at


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