The following editorial first appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star.
As Dr. Drought walked out the door to retirement, he said something that deserves to be emphasized.
“The scientific evidence is overwhelming that climate change is real and that humans are the driving cause,” Don Wilhite said.
This is a sentence that needs to be hammered into the consciousness of Nebraska’s policy makers – starting with the Gov. Pete Ricketts, who mistakenly says the question of what impact man is having on the climate is still unsettled.
There is room for debate on what the proper response should be to rising global temperatures.
But the debate on whether global warming and climate change is occurring and whether human activity is the primary cause is over. Politicians who haven’t kept up need to do their homework, or they’ll find themselves standing in lonely company with members of the flat earth society.
Wilhite earned the Dr. Drought nickname as a world renowned climate scientist and drought expert at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His credentials are impeccable. His commitment and contributions to the state are beyond question.
Wilhite was a driving force in the creation of the UNL’s Drought Information Center, the founding director of the National Drought Mitigation Center and the former director of UNL’s School of Natural Resources.
So what Wilhite says cannot be ignored. And it’s important to recognize that the any skeptics with scientific credentials are on the outer fringe of respectability, amounting to perhaps 3 percent of the total.
To cite just one recent statement from the overwhelming majority, consider a letter sent to Congress in June from more than 30 scientific organizations including the American Meteorological Society, the Crop Science Society of America, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America.
“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”
Last year was the hottest on record. And 2016 is on track to be even hotter. Every climate observatory in the world now reports that greenhouse gases are now at a higher level than any time in the last four million years. At the start of the industrial revolution carbon dioxide was at about 280 parts per million. Now every location that monitors carbon dioxide – from Greenland to the South Pole, reports levels exceeding 400 parts per million.
Dr. Drought and his scientific colleagues have done much to benefit Nebraska agriculture and the state over the years. It’s past time for Nebraska’s elected officials to accept their consensus on global warming and climate change. Instead, jump-start the discussion on how to cope.