Thank you to all who participated on June 15, 2022!

Climate change has a significant impact on Nebraska. If you’re curious about how different sectors in our state are responding,  watch our recorded discussion  from Wednesday June 15, 2022. Leaders in agriculture, the environment, local economies, and public health gathered for “Weathering Uncertainty: Conversations About Climate in Nebraska” at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln and included an audience Q&A.

In 2019, Nebraska sustained a record $2 billion in damage from a devastating storm system that combined blizzard, rain, and widespread flooding, and received national attention as a “bomb cyclone.” In 2021, Nebraska figured into three (out of twenty) billion-dollar national weather disasters: severe cold in February that led to rolling blackouts across the state; July storms that knocked out power to a third of Nebraskans and included massive hail damage; and severe weather in December that brought a record number of tornadoes and a first-ever winter derecho. Downtown Omaha also experienced a damaging flash flood event in August. In the aftermath of these and other weather disasters that are impacting our people and our agriculture-based economy, Nebraskans look at the future with concern as projections for increased extreme weather events are posited as part of climate change.

“Weathering Uncertainty” is funded in part by the Mellon Foundation’s “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and by Rhonda Seacrest.

Panelists include:

Mark McHargue is a fourth-generation farmer from Central City with his wife Judi. They have a diversified farming operation raising irrigated corn, popcorn, and soybeans utilizing and organic and conventional cropping methods along with running a nursery and finishing hog operation.

Mark and his son also own and operate McHargue Builders. He was elected President of Nebraska Farm Bureau in December 2020 and elected to the American Farm Bureau Board of Directors in January 2021. 

McHargue has been in leadership capacities for more than 20 years in Nebraska Farm Bureau. McHargue is the Vice President of the Farm Bureau Financial Services Property & Casualty Board, Chair of the NFB-Foundation Board and was recently appointed by Governor Ricketts to the Hydrogen Hub Working Group. 

He has a passion for agriculture policy and advocacy. Mark’s hope is that the next generation of farmers and ranchers will have the same opportunity to purse their dreams as an agriculturalist he was given. 

Dr. Hannah Birgé (pronounced “burr-SHAY”) is a senior scientist with The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation NGO.

She works with farmers, ranchers, and scientists to find solutions to the world’s most pressing ecological challenges. Much of her work touches down in Nebraska, including projects with ranchers to manage grassland resilience against extreme weather events and with farmers to adopt practices that store more carbon in the soil. 

In her spare time she collects funny looking dogs and makes ceramic mugs with aggressively uncomfortable handles.

Josh Moenning was elected to the Norfolk City Council in 2012, mayor in 2016, and re-elected in 2020. 

He’s worked as director of clean energy group New Power Nebraska and owns and operates a small business in the field of renewable energy development. He also assists his family’s beef business and has two children, Molly and Henry. He’s worked in the Nebraska Legislature, for the U.S. House of Representatives, and as executive director of the infrastructure development group 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska.  Moenning earned a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has completed the Harvard Kennedy School’s Climate Change Policy: Economics and Politics executive program.  In 2020, he was selected to serve on the board of directors of the National League of Cities.

Jesse Bell’s research explores the relationships of extreme weather, climate variability, and climate change on natural and human processes.

He said, “The climate that we experience controls much of the world around us. When our climate abruptly changes or gradually shifts, there can be related consequences to both our communities and our health. The goal of my work is to understand these linkages between climate and health, so that we can help prepare our populations for climate- and weather-related disasters. To determine these relationships, I use a variety of climate and environmental data sources to explore associations with human health outcomes.”

Much of his experience in this field comes from his previous position, where I created the first joint research position between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The role of this dual appointment was to provide a mechanism to integrate NOAA climate and environmental data into CDC health projects. This work provided Bell with firsthand experience that is now the foundation for his current research. Additionally, he was a lead author for the U.S. Global Change Research Program report “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment” that was released by the White House in 2016. A key finding of this report is that climate change is a significant threat to the health of the American people and that every American is vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change.

Martha Shulski, PhD is a Professor of Applied Climate Science in the School of Natural Resources at UNL where she has been faculty since 2009.

Her work focuses on climate variability and change and understanding climate impacts. She spent seven years at the Alaska Climate Research Center, six years as Director of the NOAA High Plains Regional Climate Center and has served as the Nebraska State Climatologist, directing the Nebraska State Climate Office, since 2016. Her research has taken her from remote Alaska villages to the windswept Nebraska Sandhills. She was co-author on the 2018 U.S. National Climate Assessment and you can find her weather column in NEBRASKAland magazine.

"Weathering Uncertainty" Panel Discussion: June 15, 2022