Omaha was selected as one of four cities for citizens to provide outside input into a periodic federal review of how climate change affects people's lives and businesses.
About 60 people — from gardeners to farmers to religious leaders, business people and public utility officials — recently met at a downtown hotel to talk specifically about how severe weather is affecting their lives. An increase in extreme weather is one of the ways that the changing climate is manifesting itself.
Comments from Midlanders are being provided to scientists compiling the 2013 National Climate Assessment, a Congressionally required document. These Climate Conversations, as they are called, are being held in Omaha, Charleston, S.C., Milwaukee and Las Vegas. The meetings are being funded by The Energy Foundation and organized by the Keystone Center.
Jan Brinch of the Keystone Center, said the goal of the four meetings is to provide federal climate scientists with comments from a variety of people whose voices typically wouldn't normally be heard in the climate debate. The comments supplement the input already provided by advocacy groups on either side of the issue.
Daniel Lawse, assistant director of campus planning and sustainability at Metropolitan Community College, was among those attending.
Lawse said the sessions were helpful, not only to provide the National Climate Assessment team with information, but to brainstorm with others on how a changing climate could affect the Midlands.
"It was important for me to understand the state of climate change specifically in our region and how it's tied to the kind of jobs and skills people will need," he said.
Among the ways climate change could affect Metro's course offerings:
• Increased emphasis on diversified crops and planting practices in urban gardens. Changes in the frost-freeze dates, temperature patterns and storms could make crops more vulnerable, increasing the importance of a diverse garden that is more resilient.
• Heavy rains and runoff contribute to erosion and water pollution. Homeowners and businesses could turn to the college for information on catching and retaining runoff on their property — through rain barrels, rain gardens and other amenities.
• Energy prices could rise and extreme temperatures could make residents more vulnerable to higher monthly bills. Midlanders would benefit from becoming more energy self-sufficient, through, for example, solar power or weatherization.
Additionally, as fuel costs rise, it is becoming more important for the college to reduce its transportation costs and those of its students and faculty. The college already has natural gas and electric-powered vehicles in its fleet.
It partners with Omaha's bus system, Metro, and provides an on-campus bike-sharing service.
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