This is a guest post by CAP senior fellow Tom Kenworthy.
In its authoritative report on “Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.” issued last June, the U.S. Global Change Research Program left little doubt of what’s at stake for the Great Plains in a warming world.
Projected changes in long-term climate and more frequent extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, and heavy rainfall will affect many aspects of life in the Great Plains. These include the region’s already threatened water resources, essential agricultural and ranching activities, unique natural and prorected areas, and the health and prosperity of its inhabitants.
Consensus predictions of more frequent and severe heat waves, droughts, flash floods, and falling crop yields have convinced 20 leading North Dakota scientists to join together as a science advisory panel to the North Dakota Climate Solutions Partnership. In doing so, the scientists from seven state universities and colleges issued a statement of principles affirming the overwhelming scientific conclusion that the earth’s climate is warming and that human activity is driving much of that change:
There is strong scientific consensus that human activity is a significant factor in the current climate change. The existing consensus on climate change has been affirmed by international scientific bodies….
Agriculture and livestock production will be one of the areas increasingly impacted by this trend.
Hey Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), are you listening? Do you remember last year’s floods?
In the months since the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate bill, and as the Senate has been winding up to consider its own legislation, Dorgan – likely to be a key Senate vote — has been staking out his opposition to cap and trade based on unrealistic fears of Wall Street speculation.
In a July op-ed in the Bismark Tribune under the headline “Reduce our CO2 yes”¦.but cap-and-trade, no” Dorgan wrote: “I’m willing to cap carbon to address the threat to our environment. But it has to be done right.”
“For those who like the wild price swings in the oil futures market, the unseemly speculation in mortgage-backed securities, or the exotic and risky financial products like credit dafult swaps that pushed our economy into the ditch, this cap-and-trade plan will be the answer to our prayers.”
Waxman-Markey includes numerous protections against the speculative threat that so worries Dorgan, as was explained at length here. And as New York Times columnist Paul Kruman explained in July post on his blog, Dorgan’s “reaction is 99% wrong, and bad for the planet.”
The North Dakota scientists, by returning the spotlight to the fundadmental principles of climate science, have rightly underscored an essential point: Dorgan’s worries about market speculation are a sideshow and he needs to be reminded of what’s at stake for North Dakota.
“The earth’s climate is warming,” begins the scientists’ statement. “Consequences from climate change in the Great Plains are likely to include:
- Increased vulnerability of natural ecosystems to invasive species, pests, and loss of native species
- More frequent and severe heat waves and droughts
- Heavy downpours leading to increased flash flooding
- Increased stress on waterfowl production in the prairie pothole region
- Greater pressure on crop yields due to rising temperatures and more extreme weather events.
The time to act is now.