Committee considers how to move forward with climate study

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November 1st, 2013

Omaha, NE — Nebraska’s Climate Assessment Response Committee is considering how to move forward with a legislative-mandated climate change study that the most respected scientists in the state have refused to participate in.

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Under the bill passed by the unicameral, this climate committee is to “provide the governor with information and research on the impact of climate change in Nebraska, including the impact on physical, ecological and economic areas.”

The committee chair, Bobbie Kriz-Wickham said the amended bill included the word cyclical, which the committee began to question in regards to the scientific scope and validity of the study.

“There was some discussion about the addition of that word and how that may be included in the study and how it may change the complexity of the study from what it originally intended without that word and if there was a difference with that word added,” Kriz-Wickhman said.

The bill deliberately excluded the potential effects that humans have had on the environment. To exclude the human element from any study on climate change would skew the results to advance a political agenda rather than scientific argument.

Sen. Ken Haar, who introduced the bill, said cyclical was added to the bill in order to get the bill pass the filibuster, but he said there’s no definition in the debate about what cyclical means. He said he agreed to put the word in the amendment so it wouldn’t be a political football, but he doesn’t agree with excluding human contribution from the study.
“Not mention anything including humans that would be a waste of money- a waste of $44,000 of Nebraska taxpayer money,” Haar said. “If they actually proceed that way and actually spend that money on a climate study that says we’re going to ignore any kind of human influence if it’s there then I will introduce a bill in the next session and we will go ahead with the true scientific study.”

According to the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee, scientists during the nineteenth-century were aware that humans were increasing the natural greenhouse effect by burning coal, oil and natural gases.

Dr. John McCarty, director of Environmental Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha said there is no valid, scientific reason to remove humans from the climate assessment. He said although an exact percentage of the human impact on environmental change can’t be determined; scientific research has clearly demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between human activity and climate change.

“What we can say is that the observed changes in climate can’t be explained without adding in the forcing of the climate by humans,” McCarty said. “The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that came out this fall emphasized that the observed changes are consistent with humans having a significant effect on the climate.”
The report, “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis,” states that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The assessment was compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Professor McCarty said controversy comes in when climate skeptics latch onto the idea that because the climate changed before human existence, it shouldn’t be considered when studying changes in the last century.

“We know climate changes it always changed. It changed before people were ever around,” Dr. McCarty said. “Ten thousand years ago there was a huge glacier covering much of North America that’s not because people were involved. The glaciers receded; that’s not because people were involved. Those natural factors can’t explain the changes we’ve observed over the last century.”

The Nebraska Climate Change Committee has decided to file a Request for Information in order to determine how qualified individuals should carry out the study. From this starting point the committee will then seek a formal request for proposals prior to conducting the study.

“We’re a little bit behind where I would like us to be but we’re going to do our best to do what the legislature has asked of us,” Kriz-Wickham said. “The CARC has decided to go forward with the request for information and we will do that here shortly and see what we get back. We will decide how to move forward as soon as we complete the time period for the request for information. ”

Senator Haar said it’s important to note that the study didn’t call for new research. The study is to be a compilation of information about what scientists have already concluded about the current state of Nebraska’s climate and their predictions on the future of the state’s climate..

“I think it’s a mockery of science and our intellect to cherry pick scientific data,” Haar said. “Let’s get this study, see what it says and then it’s up to politicians and farmers to look at that study and make decisions. The study is not mandating any kind of final decision. It’s just saying what climate is telling us about climate change in Nebraska.”
The final report is due to the governor and legislature December 1, 2014.

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