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A NEBRASKA OPINION

Editorial: Signs all around of a coming climate storm

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The Carter Canyon wildfire Tuesday near Gering, Nebraska. Officials said Wednesday morning that the fire was 85% contained. Over 15,000 acres were burned.

A wildfire south of Gering burns up more than 15,000 acres. The Platte River goes dry near Columbus. Temperatures soar into the triple digits with daily highs expected to remain at or near 90 degrees for at least the next week.

Those are just the most recent impacts in Nebraska of climate change, which, has in the last three years, triggered a dramatic increase in severe weather events, from derechos and hailstorms to flooding rains and drought in the state.

“For us in Nebraska, these increasing trends of costly disasters will continue upward as climate change leads to more extreme events,” State Climatologist Martha Shulski told the Journal Star’s Matt Olberding. “Events such as worsening heat waves and intense, flooding rains should be viewed looking forward, not in the rearview mirror. We will be much better off to use our climate planning roadmap and not just our climate history.”

Unfortunately, Nebraska doesn’t have a true roadmap to use as many state senators refuse to even use the words “climate change,” denying that it even exists and thwarting any climate change legislation, despite pleas from scientists and citizens who recognize that climate change is real and needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

The Legislature did approve a $150,000 update to the state’s climate change report that’s now underway and will contain recommendations for policy changes and projects.

Whether climate change deniers will consider, much less approve of, those recommendations, however, is an unanswered question that, for the future of the state, should get a yes.

The city of Lincoln, however, does have a Climate Change Action Plan, approved last year by the City Council.

Much of that effort hinges on the Lincoln Electric System achieving net-zero carbon emissions in its power production by 2040 – a process already underway as the utility invests in solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.

The plan includes about 120 initiatives, from the small, like allowing commercial vegetable growing on undeveloped city land, to the giant and costly, such as finding a second water source for the city and working to make the city less vulnerable to flooding from Salt Creek.

The city plan also calls for the conversion of its fleet of vehicles to electric or renewable fuels by 2040. That change is one that can and, given the changes in vehicle production, will be followed by the citizenry as a whole as the industry moves ever more electric.

There are other actions that individuals can take to tempering climate change, including converting homes to solar, switching to energy-efficient appliances, riding a bike, walking or taking public transportation to work and simply eating more vegetables and less meat.

They might not be big, but if widely embraced they could have a positive impact while the raging fires, flooding rains, broiling heat and increasingly severe weather events continue for years to come. Doing something small is better than doing nothing.

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