Kansas is home to 3 million people, and to the windiest city in the United States, Dodge City, where wind speeds average 14 mph. Literally flatter than a pancake (topographers conducted a comparison), Kansas averages 61 tornadoes every year. Over 87% of the state’s 81 thousand square miles is farmland, allowing Kansas to produce enough wheat per year to bake 36 billion loaves of bread.
Increasing heat and its accompanying droughts pose a dangerous threat to the entire Great Plains region, and Kansas is already seeing these effects of climate change. Having already seen a rise of at least one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, Kansas currently averages about 35 extreme heat days per year which are expected to double by 2050. As the aquifers become depleted, experts have called the long-term sustainability of the Great Plains into question—Kansas farmers could see crop yields decline by nearly 24% by 2050. Additionally, Kansas’s threat from wildfire is expected to quadruple by midcentury.
There is good news, however, as Kansas converts its high winds into energy. By 2019, wind energy accounted for 41% of the state’s energy production giving Kansas the second-highest share of wind power generation after Iowa. Renewables, by April 2020, were responsible for more than 50% of net electricity generation, with nuclear, coal-fired, and natural gas-fired making up the rest. Natural gas and coal continue to constitute the significant proportions of Kansas’s energy consumption. Consuming more gas and coal than it produces, it draws on considerable reserves of both nonrenewable resources.
In 2009, the Kansas Renewable Energy Standards Act set a goal of generating 20% of the state’s energy from renewable resources by the year 2020, which the state has cleanly surpassed. The revenue from wind energy production and economic growth for rural communities has driven continued growth in the industry. This growth has continued even in the absence of legislation incentivizing the renewable industry. Kansas has not developed a statewide climate adaptation plan, either.
CREDIT: NEW YORK TIMES