Expect heat, intense storms and more drought, say KU scientists in climate change report

Higher temperatures, more intense storms and increased drought will plague Kansas this century because of rising carbon dioxide emissions, according to a study by Kansas University scientists that was released Tuesday.

The study details numerous dangers posed by climate change and should serve as a warning and prompt new policies that reduce CO2 emissions, the scientists said.

“What’s important to remember – these are projections,” said Johannes Feddema, a geography professor who is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The study by Feddema and KU’s Nathaniel Brunsell, also a geography professor, was done for the Salina-based Land Institute’s Climate and Energy Project.

By 2100, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase as projected, temperatures in Kansas will rise an average of 2 degrees to 4 degrees, the study said. Southwest Kansas could see an increase of 8 degrees.

By 2060, winter temperatures will stay mostly above freezing. That means more insects, diseases, and the need for farmers to increase the use of costly pesticides, the scientists concluded. Higher summertime temperatures will also hurt crops and livestock and increase the need for irrigation.

Climate change will also cause more extreme weather patterns, including intense rain and flooding, but because of higher temperatures, soil moisture will decrease, and that means more intense drought.

“What hurts Kansas also hurts the nation,” the report said. “Climate change will increase stress on America’s breadbasket, risking our food security.”

An earlier study by the National Council of State Legislatures estimated that climate change could cost Kansas $1 billion per year.

The report recommends that Kansas embrace renewable energy, focusing on wind, biomass and solar. Not only will this help the environment but it will also play into Kansas’ economic hand, the report said.

“When people talk about climate change, too often they ignore the costs of not dealing with it. They also ignore the economic opportunities for Kansas in shifting to a clean energy economy,” said Nancy Jackson, executive director of the Climate and Energy Project.