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People's Climate March

LINCOLN, NEB - 04/29/2017 Participants in the People's Climate March make their way to the Capitol on Saturday, April 29, 2017, near the Nebraska Union. AMBER BAESLER, Journal Star

If you don’t think climate change will affect Nebraska, think again.

The National Climate Assessment, required to be presented to the president and Congress every four years, paints a grim picture of the climate in the Cornhusker State and country by the middle of the century, if our state and national elected officials fail to take action to combat our warming planet.

It also underscores why the Journal Star editorial board has long called for action to reduce the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels get a lot of attention because of their proximity to major population centers. But the impact increased temperatures and carbon-dioxide emissions would have on Nebraska and the Midwest is no less dire.

Nebraska’s natural bounty powers its economic engine, as agriculture is directly responsible for one of every four jobs in the state. Yet the report forecasts climate conditions between 2036 and 2065, barring a change, will threaten the conditions vital to success for the state’s leading industry.

A spike in dry spells and intense storms should already be evident. For those who have forgotten, a crippling drought in 2012 followed on the heels of the Missouri River flood of 2011, fueled in part by record snows. The authors highlighted how such severe weather events degrade both the soil and water quality – critical elements for any successful farm or ranch operation.

Furthermore, no part of the Northern Great Plains region – which encompasses the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming – would see more days above 90 degrees by the middle of the century than eastern Nebraska. The report notes that threshold marks a critical turning point not only for human health but for the viability of agriculture, outdoor recreation and environment in our state.

Despite the alarm bells this report should be sounding, its official release was relegated to a news dump the day after Thanksgiving rather than its scheduled date in December.

Predictably, yet regrettably, President Donald Trump dismissed the report offhand. Just like that.

Meanwhile, on cable news, pro-Trump pundits have trotted out an embarrassing line to argue against climate change by asking who paid for their research. (Spoiler alert: The federal government, whose executive and legislative branches are helmed by Trump’s party, did.)

The administration’s apparent effort to quietly produce this document, one whose existence was mandated by Congress nearly 30 years ago, backfired. Instead, the calamitous consequences of inaction have stirred a response worthy of the looming dangers posed by climate change.

We can’t stop Nebraskans who want to bury their heads in the sand – or the Sandhills – and pretend this won’t affect them. But an ever-mounting body of evidence, including the federal government’s own research, indicates a warming environment will be felt acutely in the Midwest if left unchecked.

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