Editorial | State Needs Climate Committee

Please call your state senator and urge them to support LR 455, a resolution which would establish a special legilative committee to develop a strategic plan to help Nebraska adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Also urge your senator to support the original language of the resolution, designating the chairs of all of the legisture standing committees to serve on this special Climate Action Commmittee--- and not the amendment that would allow for the appointment of at large members chosen from the 49 members of the legislature.

By the Journal Star Editorial Board

After the hottest year on record for global temperatures, it’s certainly appropriate that the Legislature appoint a special legislative committee to help the state prepare for the future.

Let’s hope that the proposal from Sens. Ken Haar and Heath Mello to do just that stays on track as the session ticks down to the fourth quarter.

The committee appointed under LR455 would work to create a strategic plan to help Nebraskans adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change, focusing on food production and protecting the state’s land and water.

Creation of the committee is the next logical step after the landmark 2014 study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a follow-up report based on eight roundtable discussions held around the state last year.

Among the predicted effects of climate change for Nebraska are a 4 to 9 degree increase in the average temperature and a 5 to 10 percent decrease in average soil moisture by the end of the century.

Warming temperatures could introduce new pest and diseases to the state, and increase competition for water.

Despite its status as a major food producer, Nebraska is behind the curve in preparation.

Organizations ranging from the U.S. military to large corporations like Union Pacific are already assessing how climate change will impact their operations. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have completed climate action plans.

“Nebraska businesses are addressing it, nonprofits are addressing it,” Kay Carne of Verdis Group told legislators at a public hearing. The Omaha-based consulting firm has worked with the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and other entities.

The annual Nebraska Rural Poll last year found that 61 percent of respondents agreed that the state should develop a plan to adapt to the effects of climate change. Only 17 percent disagreed.

The proposal for appointment of a special legislative committee has been forwarded to the full Legislature. But senators are still haggling over its membership. Haar and Mello wanted the committee to include the chairs of the Agriculture, Appropriations, Health and Human Services, Education and Natural Resources committeees, plus two at-large members. The amendment calls for the chairs of the Appropriations Committee and Natural Resources Committee and five at-large members.

The danger as the Legislature reaches its final phase is that the climate change skeptics and outright climate change deniers will try to sabotage the effort.

The urgency of the need for preparations was underlined recently by headlines that February was the hottest on record.

Senators need to make sure that the special committee will be authorized to begin its work when the session ends.

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