Several lawmakers in the Nebraska Legislature want to do something that is rather intriguing and, we would say, commendable.
They want to understand climate change.
Let's be clear on this point. That desire does not reflect a political stand, which this topic all too often seems to generate.
Instead, they want to know what's going on with our climate and how it may impact Nebraska.
A bill was introduced recently in Lincoln that calls for the creation of a state climate-assessment commission to come to grips with the wild weather patterns and what they could possibly mean to the state's economic future.
Given what Nebraska has seen in recent years, the curiosity (shall we say) is understandable. Last year alone, Nebraska was racked by wildfires as a historic drought settled in across a large swath of the nation.
It could be easy - and it may yet happen - to derail this bill and/or this conversation with climate change denial, which has practically become a political industry in some quarters. We suspect that any opposition to this measure will readily tap into this skepticism.
But that's actually putting the cart well in front of the horse, so to speak.
This proposed commission will study what is already happening and assess the potential impact.
"What we want to ask is, 'What does science say?' said Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm. "We have to make our own choices in this state, but climate change will likely have an impact on the temperature in Nebraska and the water that we get from the Rockies."
And that's just for starters.
Without question, our weather patterns have been undergoing changes in recent years. You've all at least heard about the heat records that have been set almost annually around the world. You are well aware of the outbursts of extreme weather that have appeared in many places - indeed, we're living through one such extreme right now. We are also seeing the impacts of these weather trends.
On one hand, the cause of this extreme weather is important to know so that we may act accordingly.
But on another hand, and at a more local level, the cause is practically irrelevant. What's more pressing is the impact of this extreme weather.
And that's what this commission would investigate. After all, it's only Nebraska's economic foundation at stake.
This idea is well worth pursuing, and not just in Nebraska. South Dakota would also benefit from such an investigation, if for no other reason than to give us a vision of what may come and some ideas of how we can adjust for it. (Frankly, when the Press and Dakotan posed this question to local legislative candidates last year during the election, some of the responses came off as disinterested or dismissive of the whole notion.)
Whatever the reason for the weather, the key is trying to understand it all - and, especially, what it may mean for us.
The Nebraska lawmakers are on the right and prudent track. Let's hope they can see this measure through to reality.
- Yankton Press and Dakotan