Time is running out to protect the resources of the Great Plains, and one of the jobs of the Center for Great Plains Studies is finding ways to combat the problem.
Widespread destruction due to massive weather events like flooding is tearing up the middle of the country, jeopardizing millions of dollars worth of property and putting lives and livelihoods in harm’s way.
Katie Nieland, assistant director at the Center for Great Plains Studies, a regional research and outreach program established in 1976 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the center works with many different people from all around UNL to conduct and compile research about the Great Plains and has been studying climate change for many years.
But the flooding this spring prompted the group to have more conversations about the ways the Great Plains has been affected and how the people of the region can respond. Because of its unique position, Nieland said the Great Plains has the opportunity to place itself at the center of the action around climate change.
“The Great Plains is a little bit of an interesting case for climate change because we do so much, including farming and ranching, with the land,” Nieland said. “If climate change continues to warp our environment, we’re gonna notice.”
Nieland said that people concerned about climate change have done a good job of gathering the necessary scientific evidence, but more work needs to be done by climate groups to approach the issue more comprehensively. She said there is a gap between the conversations that scientists are having and those of the public.
“There’s not much distance between us and the real Great Plains,” Nieland said. “I think that connects us to the land in a way that someone in a city might not be able to see.”
To help find a solution, the center will host a two-day climate conference “Climate Change and Culture on the Great Plains” at UNL in April of 2020. Neiland said the center hopes the conference will help to find solutions and have a more productive conversation.
“If you’re a psychologist and you think you don’t have much to do with climate change, well, you actually might,” Nieland said, “There’s all kinds of research that can be done about how people think about these issues or in similar fields, too.”
The center hopes to shift the way the story of climate change is told to make it more understandable for most people, including finding new ways of delivering evidence to show the impact it will have.
“The thing about climate change is that you can’t see it happen,” Nieland said, “and that’s a barrier for a lot of people.”