Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

February 1991


Published in Great Plains Research 1:1 (February 1991), pp. 133–151. Copyright © 1991 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


The potential for social adaptation to climate change on the Great Plains is examined and a framework offered for sharpening the inquiry into regional agricultural sustainability. The future of Plains agriculture in a worsening climate depends on several factors, but a key characteristic is whether the system is fundamentally adaptable (able to change form and function markedly under new conditions) or resilient (likely to attempt to maintain "normal" operations via disaster relief and other social maintenance schemes in future droughts). In a cumulative climate deterioration, adaptive strategies are likely to yield less abrupt social dislocation, but debate over the sustainability of Plains agriculture even in the absence of climate change demonstrates the need for a concerted, collaborative examination of regional development trends by Plains researchers.