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Fed Study: Climate Change Putting State’s Unique Ecosystems at Risk

June 23, 2009

Rapid City, SD – Conservation and environmental groups, including the South Dakota Sierra Club, say data contained in the new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), detailing the impacts of global warming, show that climate-driven changes will create significant risks for the state's unique ecosystems.

Jim Margadant, regional conservation organizer with the South Dakota Sierra Club, says the effects of climate change will be felt no matter how quickly moves are made to cut carbon emissions, and that declining water resources could become a big issue for the state.

"What South Dakotans need to understand is that they're going to have to be accepting of the fact that the climate will change. They are going to have to look to their water resources. We could be seeing more severe precipitation events, snow storms, rain storms. But depending on how the temperatures and the climate change, we could be seeing that runoff go earlier and being lost."

Margadant says the most important change they're seeing in the northern plains right now is the temperature fluctuation, with more hot than cold days being reported.

"They have the data showing it has gone up at least two degrees Fahrenheit since the 1960s. And they're projecting that it's going to be another two-and-a-half degrees Fahrenheit higher by 2020. Overall, by the end of the century, we could be looking at anywhere from six to ten degrees Fahrenheit increase in temperatures, just depending on how much emissions we continue putting into the air."

Some people attribute the temperature fluctuations to a natural cycle and claim they aren't caused by humans. However, Margadant says, carbon buildup is real, cumulative and damaging. He says adaptive strategies will be needed in the future to ensure that agriculture can flourish while protection is given to the state and the country's valuable land and wildlife resources.

David Law, Public News Service - SD