Picasso Cafe in Oklahoma City was packed Wednesday night for StateImpact’s public forum on how to prepare for climate change in Oklahoma.
The two panelists — Clay Pope, director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, and Dr. David Engle, professor, researcher, and director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Center at Oklahoma State University — answered questions from StateImpact reporters Joe Wertz and Logan Layden and fielded questions from an eager audience.
StateImpact partner station KOSU hosted the forum during its monthly “On Tap” event, which was co-hosted by KGOU.
The discussion started with Pope emphasizing the importance of the thin layer of topsoil on which all of civilization rests, and that sustains crops and livestock. With climate forecasts calling for hotter conditions and more frequent drought over the next several decades, Pope says farmers should be using no-till methods to grow crops whenever possible, or risk losing that topsoil to the wind.
Engle started by updating what he calls the decline in Oklahoma’s rangelands because of drought, urbanization, and the proliferation of the eastern red cedar — the water-sucking, habitat-destroying tree that quickly explodes into flames during wildfires.
Both panelists then addressed the economic impacts of a warmer, dryer climate, before taking audience questions.
So, is Oklahoma ready for a changing climate? The answer that emerged from the forum: We’re trying. Regardless of whether the public at large believes the scientific evidence of climate change, Oklahoma farmers and ranchers, state agencies, insurance companies and researchers are all making changes to prepare in case the long-term forecasts come true.