Climate change comes home to South Dakota

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Awake at night/flickr

If you were asked to name states where climate change is a pressing concern, South Dakota would probably not be the first that came to mind. Environmentalism is the province of coastal elites, the conventional wisdom goes. “Real Americans,” in the heartland or elsewhere, supposedly could care less.

If you cling to such notions yourself, you would do well to reconsider. Studies increasingly show residents in states far removed from the environmental movement’s coastal, liberal base are getting worried.

One such state is South Dakota. Time will tell if last week’s devastating blizzard will shift any South Dakotans feelings about climate change. But EDF happened to be conducting a poll in Sioux Falls just a few weeks before the storm hit. We found that:

  • 71 percent think that global warming is happening.
  • 60 percent were either somewhat or very worried about it.
  • 68 percent said climate change will harm crops a great or moderate amount, compared to 28 percent who said climate change will have little or no effect.
  • 53 percent recalled unusual weather events in their area in the previous 12 months.

To reiterate – we conducted this poll before the state was slammed by one of the worst storms it has ever seen. Numbers like these certainly don’t suggest South Dakotans uniformly share an abiding concern about climate change. But they also defy the common perception that you need to go to California or Vermont to find anyone who does.

It’s little wonder – Increasing numbers of polls suggest Americans are connecting the dots between extreme weather events and climate change. And last week’s disastrous blizzard, where South Dakotan ranchers were nearly helpless as 70 mile-per-hour winds and five feet of snow killed as many as 20,000 of their livestock, is a reminder that it isn’t just Americans on the coast who are coping with unprecedented conditions.

The environmental movement will continue to have a strong, bi-coastal presence. But it would be a great mistake to instinctively presume the rest of the country’s indifference.

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Benjamin Schneider

Benjamin Schneider

Benjamin Schneider is a communications manager at Environmental Defense Fund, focusing on climate and clean air issues.  

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Comments

A real scientific consensus of a climate crisis happening would call it; inevitable not just "possible". Prove us wrong; science has agreed on nothing beyond "could be". So why are you believers saying it WILL be a crisis when science has NEVER said it will, only could.
Find us one IPCC warning that says a crisis WILL happen.

Some excerpts from the IPCC summary report for policymakers.

1. Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system. {2–14}.

2. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of
the observed warming since the mid-20th century. {10.3–10.6, 10.9}2.

Scientists are 95% certain about their findings. Asking for 100% proof is unreasonable.

You do realize there is a 97% scientific consensus on climate change that it is happening now. Quite frankly anyone who doesn't believe it is a fool because even if you don't believe its man made nobody should really be able to ignore the fact that the arctic is thawing like never before, storms are getting bigger and more violent by the year, and even the damn flat earth society says climate change likely the cause. The only people who refuse to believe at this point are crazier then the flat earthers.

Record low year for tornados.
Pretty darn close to a record low year for hurricanes.
2nd lowest wildfire year in recorded history.
Lowest number of 100-degree days across the US, Ever.

Will the blizzard change minds? You Betcha!
Skepticism will Increase. Just like the ice in the Antarctic.

Global warming causing another blizzard?