Date of this Version
School of Natural Resources, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Lincoln, NE: 2014.
This report was commissioned by the UNL Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) with the objective of evaluating and summarizing the existing scientific literature related to our changing climate. Scientists from the IANR’s School of Natural Resources and the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences have been the principal contributors to the report under the able leadership of long-time, internationally leading applied climate scientist Professor Don Wilhite. Their efforts have resulted in a timely and seminal reference for state and local policy-makers, government agency leaders, private industry, and indeed all citizens of our great state.
Globally, we face significant economic, social, and environmental risks as we confront the challenges associated with climate change. The body of scientific evidence confirms with a high degree of certainty that human activities in the form of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, changes in land use, and other factors are the primary cause for the warming that the planet has experienced, especially in recent decades. Is there a debate within the scientific community with regard to observed changes in climate and human activities as the principal causal factor? The short answer here is “no”, at least certainly not among climate scientists—that is, those scientists who have actual expertise in the study of climate and climate change. For more than a decade, there has been broad and overwhelming consensus within the climate science community that the human-induced effects on climate change are both very real and very large. The debate in 2014 is restricted to precisely how these changes will play out and what actions we will need to take to adapt to and mitigate the effects of these changes. The magnitude and rapidity of the projected changes in climate are unprecedented. The implications of these changes for the health of our planet, and the legacy we will leave to our children, our grandchildren and future generations are of vital concern. Therefore, it is imperative that we develop strategies now to adapt to the multitude of changes we are experiencing and will continue to experience in our climate. This process of adaptation must begin at the local level, where these changes are being observed and their impacts felt. However, global agreements on the reduction of GHG emissions are a critical part of the solution in terms of mitigating as much future warming as possible. The approach taken in this report is to review the voluminous scientific literature on the subject and interpret—given time and resource constraints—our current understanding of the science of climate change and the implications of projections of climate change for Nebraska. The goal of this report is to inform policy makers, natural resource managers, and the public about 1) the state of the science on climate change, 2) current projections for ongoing changes over the twenty-first century, 3) current and potential future impacts, and 4) the management and policy implications of these changes. Hopefully, this report will lead to a higher degree of awareness and the initiation of timely and appropriate strategic actions that enable Nebraskans to prepare for and adapt to current and future changes in our climate.