North Dakota is the nation’s nineteenth largest in area and fourth smallest by population, home to 760 thousand people with a land area of almost 70 thousand square miles. The Great Plains constitute most of North Dakota’s land; however, at the state’s border with Montana, the land transforms into the rocky Badlands.
President James Buchanan signed the bill creating the Dakota Territory in 1861. It originally included the area covered today by North and South Dakota as well as Montana and Wyoming. In 1889, North Dakota became a state. “Dakota” is a Native American (Sioux) word for “friend.” There are four federally-recognized tribes in North Dakota today, among them the Standing Rock Sioux, who made headlines around the globe for their resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline amidst militarized construction efforts that the Tribe argued violated treaty rights. In July of 2020, the D.C. District Court ordered the owners of the DAPL to halt operations while the government conducts a full analysis of risks.
North Dakota is vulnerable to inland flooding, as precipitation is expected to continue increasing in the coming decades. In the Red River watershed, river flows during the worst flood of the year have been increasing by about 10% per decade since the 1920s. A changing climate will have varying effects on North Dakota’s agriculture. Warmer temperatures extend the growing season and may actually increase yields of crops like soybean and corn. However, over the next 70 years, the number of days above 100 degrees is expected to double in North Dakota, and these hotter conditions can dry soil and impact the health of crops.
In 2019, coal accounted for 63% of North Dakota’s electricity generation and half of the state’s 10 largest power plants are coal-fired. Wind energy supplies about 27% of North Dakota’s electricity and has more than tripled in the past decade, with hydroelectric power supplying about 7%. Following the development of North Dakota’s shale oil resources in 2008, natural gas output began rapidly increasing and gross withdrawals surpassed 1 trillion cubic feet for the first time in 2019. The state’s current production now exceeds its ability to consume.North Dakota currently lacks a renewable energy standard or any kind of climate action plan.
CREDIT: InsideClimate News