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State climatologist talks about climate change impact on Nebraska

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 5:29 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The United Nations sounded the alarm on climate change Thursday, following a new report they called “a code red for humanity.”

CO2 levels are higher than they’ve ever been and temperatures have risen faster in the last 50 years than they have at any other time.

Climate change is now “unequivocally caused” by humans.

The state is tracking climate change right along with the changes seen across the globe.

For example, the Hackberry fire rages on, uncontained in the Nebraska Panhandle. The fire was caused by a lightning strike but amplified by extreme drought.

“Natural variability is always going to be here and influence our climate,” Dr. Martha Shulski, Nebraska State Climatologist said. “Climate change is the steroid. The amplifier that makes these weather variabilities and these weather extremes worse.”

The extreme shifts of climate change are reflected in Nebraska. 2019 was the third wettest year on record while 2020 and 2021 saw extreme drought.

“Going back and forth from one extreme to another is a signature of climate change,” Shulski said. “It’s similar to what other countries around the globe are experiencing.”

While the state does have a drought action plan, it doesn’t have a climate action plan. Shulski said it’s better to create one now than wait it out.

So what happens if things continue on the course we’re on?

“We’re looking at end of the century, our climate being kind of unrecognizable compared to what it is now. Summers being much warmer, frequent drought events, heavy rain and flooding events mixed in with those,” Shulski said.

And with changing weather, comes a changing agricultural landscape.

“I don’t know the current paradigm is sustainable into the future; that’s a tough thing to think about.”

Shulski said that while humans may be the cause of this change, they are also the solution. She said the first step in the right direction is talking about climate change, recognizing the human impact and finding a way to reduce our state’s carbon footprint.

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