The state of Nebraska is almost 77 thousand square acres, and 92% of that land is made up of farms and ranches. Nebraska is one of the top five states in the nation in agricultural output, and known especially for cattle and calves, hogs, corn, soybeans, and wheat. Almost two million people call Nebraska home.
As the climate crisis continues to escalate and average temperatures in Nebraska continue to rise, the state will face an increase in extreme heat, drought, and flooding. Currently, Nebraska sees an average of 15 days considered dangerously hot per year, but that number could rise to 40 by 2050. More than 45 thousand Nebraskans are considered to be especially vulnerable to extreme heat. Extreme heat increases the demand for water while simultaneously diminishing its availability by evaporating the water from soil. States at risk, of which Nebraska is one, predicts a 70% increase in threat from widespread summer drought by 2050, which will put exorbitant demands on irrigation systems. Livestock are also vulnerable to extreme heat, and so consequently is the economy which depends on them. Even while droughts increase, floods are expected to do so as well. The Great Plains has seen an increase in severe rainstorms over the past 50 years and river levels are rising during floods, particularly in Eastern Nebraska.
Nebraska ranks second in the nation for ethanol production and capacity, producing about 14% of the country’s ethanol. While Nebraska continues to heavily burn coal—the fossil fuel accounting for over 50% of Nebraska’s net electricity generation — the state barely relies on natural gas and is, instead, expanding cleaner energy. 20% of Nebraska’s electricity comes from wind power and 19% comes from nuclear. Nebraska is investing in developing additional renewable resources — with two large wind farms joining the energy mix in 2020.
That said, Nebraska has not enacted a renewable energy standard. Legislators have resisted implementing policy that would help the state prepare for the coming climate challenges and the state lacks an adaptation plan. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks has introduced a measure — that calls upon the University of Nebraska Officials to develop a plan for adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change — to be submitted in December of 2020. This plan would aim gaining an understanding of Nebraska’s current emissions and set goals for reducing them, as well as providing estimates on economic implications of climate change for the state’s economy and relevant recommendations.
CREDIT: KETV NewsWatch 7