Global warming session attracts large crowd at Kansas water conference
By Doug Rich
There was a standing room only crowd for the session on climate at the Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas Oct. 25 in Manhattan, Kan. People filled the room to hear Charles Rice, Kansas State University distinguished professor of soil microbiology, and Dennis Hedke, who represents District 99 in the Kansas House of Representatives and is a partner in Hedke-Saenger Geoscience, Ltd., present their views on global warming.
Rice and Hedke agreed that the climate in Kansas is warming and that the state needs to act now to conserve precious water resources. Why the climate is warming and who or what is responsible for it is where they disagreed.
Rice, who serves on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, points to greenhouse gases as the culprit for global warming and that humans are the reason for the increases. Rice noted that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the climate is changing and humans have contributed to that change.
According to Rice the average temperature in the U.S. has increased 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895. Nearly 80 percent of this increase occurred since 1980. Rice attributed climate change over the past 50 years primarily to human activities.
“Right now we are at a point in time that is the warmest since the time of Christ,” Rice said. “One of the causes for that is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.”
Hedke maintained that there was no correlation between carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global temperature. Hedke said 0.01 percent is the change in the carbon monoxide concentration of the earth’s atmosphere since 1700. The surface temperature around the planet has increased 1.3 degrees since 1850.
“Solar activity is the biggest driver of temperature on this planet and always will be,” Hedke said.
The planet is in the midst of a 1,000-year climate cycle, according to Hedke. Although the planet has been gradually warming since the Little Ice Age, it is not as warm now as it was in medieval times. The temperature in Kansas has been on an upward trend since 1888, as would be expected due to the 1,000-year climate cycle, Hedke said.
“Since the Little Ice Age ended we have had glacial retreat and sea level rise, and all of these things are very normal global processes,” Hedke said. “Glacial retreat started 200 years ago, before any human effect from the use of hydro carbons.”
Hedke pointed out that in one year from August 2012 to August 2013 arctic sea ice expanded dramatically. The sea ice this summer was the largest it has been since they began keeping records by satellite in 1979.
Rice said if global warming is caused by carbon monoxide, there are some key messages for the Great Plains. Rice said rising temperatures will lead to increased demand for water and energy, there will be changes to crop growth cycles due to warming winters and alterations in the timing and magnitude of rainfall events requiring new agriculture and livestock management practices, and the magnitude of expected changes will exceed those experienced in the last century.
“Existing adaptation and planning efforts are inadequate to respond to these projected impacts,” Rice said.
On the other hand, if the warming trend is part of a long-term cycle there still will be changes to our way of life on this planet. Hedke said it is impossible to change global cycles.
“Policy must be based on scientific fact and then adapt to that knowledge,” Hedke said. “We must manage our resources.”
It was an interesting exchange between two men who have a thorough knowledge of their subject. The standing room only crowd was not disappointed.
Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.