Changes to climate committee amended, advanced

Lawmakers gave first-round approval April 23 to a bill that would change duties of the state’s climate committee.

LB583, introduced by Malcolm Sen. Ken Haar, would require the Climate Assessment Response Committee to report to the governor on the impacts of climate change for the state and to facilitate communication between stakeholders to address those impacts and response strategies.

The bill also would require a long-term strategic report delivered to the governor and the Legislature by Sept. 1, 2014, regarding how Nebraska should prepare for climate change.

Haar said the bill would expand the committee’s focus from drought monitoring to long-range planning on climate change.

“It’s here, it’s happening and we will have to adapt,” he said.

An Agriculture Committee amendment, adopted 44-0, scales back the committee’s initial report to a mere compilation of data on climate patterns and projections, including implications for agriculture, recreation and other economic sectors.

The amendment would require the committee to review the initial report and provide a final report of significant conclusions and recommendations by Dec. 1, 2014.

Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, chairperson of the committee, said the amendment would reduce the bill’s cost to approximately $40,000 by narrowing the focus of the initial report so that it would not have to be commissioned.

“We anticipate that this work primarily will be compiled by the climate experts within the university community,” Schilz said.

Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy introduced, and later withdrew, an amendment that would have removed all references to climate change in the bill. He said the Climate Assessment Response Committee was formed to study drought and water issues only.

“I think that we are straying from the original purpose of this committee,” he said.

McCoy offered a second amendment, adopted 26-0, that instead inserted the word “cyclical” before the phrase “climate change” in the bill. He said the change would remove politics from the bill.

Bellevue Sen. Scott Price supported the amendment, saying it was reflective of the complex science of climatology.

“Putting cyclical into this is prudent and will speak to the nature of weather,” he said.

As introduced, LB583 also would have added an individual from the High Plains Regional Climate Center as a voting member of the Climate Assessment Response Committee.

Haar said it could improve the quality of the committee’s work to have a trained climatologist as a voting member.

O’Neill Sen. Tyson Larson offered an amendment, adopted 26-0, that removed that provision from the bill. He said a member of the climate center already acts in an advisory capacity to the Climate Assessment Response Committee, so there is no need to add them as a voting member.

Haar said the bill as amended still would encourage the committee to take a long-range view of the impact of climate change in Nebraska.

“This bill provides a timely update … so that our state leaders have the information they need to both plan for the future and respond to the physical world around us,” he said.

The bill advanced to select file on a 35-0 vote.

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