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Professor warns that climate change will hurt Nebraska crop and livestock production

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KEARNEY, Nebraska — A University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor is warning that climate change will have drastic long-term effects on agriculture throughout the state.

Don Wilhite outlined the consequences for an audience at a Nebraska Farmers Union convention, the Kearney Hub reported (http://bit.ly/1rYYAXP ). A report Wilhite is the lead author of says climate change will disrupt agriculture production by mid-century, particularly crops and livestock, and degrade soil and water assets because of heavier but less-frequent rains.

"Today is the time when we need to take action," Wilhite said. "We can't wait until we see some of these drastic changes we expect by the middle of this century."

Wilhite, the lead author of "Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska," said climate models predict that the unusually hot and dry summer of 2012 will become the average conditions for Nebraska by the last quarter of this century. The report says the number of days with temperatures above 100 degrees is expected to increase substantially.

He noted that in the summer of 2012, McCook had 37 days with high temperatures of more than 100 degrees. The long-term average for the season is around 11 days. He says groundwater levels in some areas of Nebraska dropped 5 to 12 feet.

Heat and increased seasonal variability in precipitation is likely to enhance drought frequency and severity, which will reduce groundwater recharge and increase groundwater use, the report says. The Platte and Missouri rivers will also receive less water because of continued reductions in Rocky Mountain snowpack, according to the report.

Wilhite said the biggest challenge in changing the current course of climate change is convincing the public and public officials that it isn't a myth. He said 97 percent of the world's climatologists agree that humans are changing the climate. Meanwhile, a survey showed that only 12 percent of Americans are aware of that level of scientific consensus.

"This issue has been so politicized in the United States," Wilhite said. "It's not a political issue. It's an issue of science."


Information from: Kearney Hub, http://www.kearneyhub.com/

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