Nebraska experts weigh in on climate crisis

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Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 10:45 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Last week the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report written by hundreds of leading scientists showing it is “now or never” for worldwide action to avert climate disaster.

Challenges from climate change are also faced in the Heartland.

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Nebraska’s most recent state climate study in 2014 warned of the dangers in rising temperatures. The state has approved an updated study in this year’s budget. And according to those already doing that work, it’s past time to talk about climate change in the heartland.

“You should be freaked out,” said Elizabeth Chalecki, Ph.D. with the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Environmental Policy. “The news is dire we need to cut greenhouse gases dramatically and quickly.”

The proof is in the extremes more than usual for Nebraska.

According to Martha Shuski, a Nebraska State Climatologist, the state is used to dramatic swings in weather.

“When these extremes are amplified and we go from one extreme to another in quick succession, we go from the third wettest year on record in 2019 and a massive flood that we had in March, and the springtime or the summertime flooding that we had, and then we go into a drought situation that is ongoing,” Shuski said. “It really makes people kind of understand and see things that are going on and feel those impacts.”

While residents can feel those impacts, there is no denying it’s a divisive topic.

“We live in a state where being an environmental activist, saying climate change is a toxic word,” said sustainability specialist Kat Woerner. “So with everything I write and everything I do I figure out how to say it and how to do it and how to communicate it without saying the words climate change.”

David Corbin, Ph.D., is an emeritus professor of health education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Corbin says it’s science, and shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

“Gravity isn’t partisan either,” Corbin said. “So when you look at the science and you say well this is what’s happening. I give a lot of presentations, they all have leaders and all of those are talking about what we need to do for the planet, for the Earth. So it’s not like it’s one religion over another, one party over another one, age over another. We all live on the same planet.”

Chalecki adds that partisan politics shouldn’t play a role in deciding on climate action.

”There’s no such thing as Democratic air and Republican air, or liberal water and conservative water, or America’s climate and anyone else’s climate,” Chalecki said. “It’s all the same air, water, and climate, which means we have to address it as a whole, not according to a political party. There’s no future in that kind of division.”

Shulski says working together should be a priority.

“Something I really try to practice myself and relay that to other individuals, agencies, leaders, and policymakers is that we have to come together to the table to talk about it,” Shulski said. “We don’t want it to be on the menu and have things decided for us. We want to be at the table making those decisions.”

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