LINCOLN — Lincoln Sen. Ken Haar took his stand on climate change Tuesday with a bill to ensure that Nebraska plans for any effects on its agricultural economy.
"It's here. It's happening. And we will have to adapt," Haar said.
To believe in Haar's bill, however, you have to believe the climate is changing for man-made reasons.
"I, for one, and this is a philosophical position," Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy said, "don't subscribe to global warming, to that theory. I think there are normal cyclical and rhythmic climate changes that are not caused by man-made attempts."
The intent and purposes of the bill walk the state out on a ledge he isn't comfortable with, he said.
The bill (LB583), which is Haar's priority, would charge the state's Climate Assessment and Response Committee with examining the future effects of climate change on farming, water and forests.
It was amended to have the committee undertake an assessment in two parts. First, it would provide a report before September 2014 on projections of how key climate elements might change and possible effects to agriculture, water management, wildlife and recreation.
The committee, rather than an outside group, then would make recommendations in the following three months to identify policies that need to change.
McCoy was unsuccessful in his attempt to have the climate committee remain focused only on drought and water, as it was created to do in the early 1990s.
"I think that we are straying from the purpose of this committee with this overall bill," he said.
He recounted a report from his great-grandfather that on his Nebraska homestead in the mid-1920s there was more than an inch of snow on the Fourth of July.
"We have pretty crazy weather, as we all know, in this neck of the woods, the upper Midwest, the Plains" he said. "We're a hardy bunch, those who've settled this state and the surrounding states."
Weather comes and weather goes, he said.
But University of Nebraska-Lincoln climate scientists, in a paper passed among senators, said 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists believe human activities are responsible for most of the observed global warming since the middle of the 20th century.
Nebraska has had warmer than normal temperatures since the 1970s, especially in the past 10 years, they said. And future trends of this century of precipitation show a general drying in summer and autumn and wetter winters. Springs could be wetter in the north and drier in the south.
The bill advanced on a 35-0 vote, with committee changes and a change offered by Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill that disallowed a person from the High Plains Regional Climate Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from being added to the climate assessment committee.
"Cyclical" also was added to references to climate change.