Climate change symposium hopes to lead to mitigation and prevention practices in Nebraska

These extreme weather events are the main topic of climate change symposium in Lincoln.

The goal is to see if there are ways to reduce the damage and maybe even prevent some events from occurring.

"The writing's on the wall with these kind of these extreme climate conditions," said Graham Christensen.

The fifth-generation producer from northeast Nebraska attended the first-of-its-kind symposium at the University of Nebraska Lincoln's East Campus.

"We want to simply have a long-term resilient farm. We're fifth generation. We'd like to see this continue, this tradition continue on," Christensen said.

He was about 100 people who shared their personal stories about how they feel climate change affects their lives.

Christensen said in the past five years since he and his brother took over operations, they have had a bomb cyclone, two derecho wind events, floods and wildfires.

"Now we have 80 degrees in February for the first time," Christensen said.

Others like Amber Emery from NASA Earth Sciences Office said the home she grew up in upstate New York was swept away by floods in 2011.

"We had two 500-year floods five years apart," Emery said.

Lauren Marolis, an Omaha resident who has an organic produce business, said the weather is more unpredictable and harder to grow plants.

"I feel like it just ramps up every single year. Now they get it's worse and worse," Marolis said.

Hank Miller is the chairperson of the Nebraska Indian Community College program at the University.

He said when he was a kid, he would get a drink straight from a well, not anymore.

"I think it's time that we all kind of face reality about our own actions and causing effects on our environment," Miller said.

Organizers of the event received a $80,000 grant from the University N2025 Challenges Fund.

It is to begin conversations that will hopefully lead to establishing a Community Climate Resilience Institute.

"How can we make them either less impactful?" said Clint Rowe, the UNL Earth and Atmospheric Sciences chair.

He pointed to data that indicates Nebraska's climate has warmed 1.6 degrees since 1895, but most of that increase has come in the last 30 years.

"Even if you're not willing to say they're changing because of human activity, we have to adapt to it," Rowe said.

That's what Christensen said he is trying to do in his operation.

He said he is taking lessons from the past, including from Native Americans, such as planting windbreaks and waterways in a different watershed or different soil they lost all kinds of soil," Christensen said.

"Because we had that waterway buffered, we held most of the soil in place in that flood, where some of my farmer friends that.

He said they are using drones to plant cover crops in corn fields in the summer.

"Then we see when we come to the spring, we have 18 inches, 20 inches of a covered crop," Christensen said.

He said it keeps soil moisture in, reduces wind and water erosion and gives another crop to feed livestock.

"Those animals and cyclical motions that allow us to cut down on some of the fertilization expenses," Christensen said.

He said the bottom line is they balance the books.

"We feel like, economically, we're taking positive steps as well," Christensen said.

He believes it's protecting his way of life and maybe others as well.

"We're talking about how and how agriculture can have a role in the mitigation of these climate practices," Christensen said.

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