Climate Change Will Affect Urban and Rural Areas in Kansas
Let’s clear the air about climate change: The effects of human activity on the climate have been studied for decades, with NASA raising eyebrows as far back as the ‘60s. In fact, we can thank President Eisenhower, who was raised in Abilene, Kansas for initiating this research. During his presidency, “Ike” had recognized the need for scientific research as well as mass infrastructure updates. He was a vehement supporter of the space race and is directly responsible for the formation of NASA — not because he wanted to stargaze, but because he knew it was an issue of national security. Now, over 70 years later, we face a similar existential threat to the wellbeing of the United States: climate change. Climate experts, using the latest computer modeling technology, have a better understanding of how some of these changes might affect various communities and the nation as a whole. In terms of agriculture, as well as real estate, their forecast models are cause for concern.
Why Kansas Agriculture Is So Important
As Napoleon once famously said, “An army marched on its stomach,” which means America’s breadbasket should be a place to protect at all costs. The state of Kansas, recognized as one of the nation’s leading agricultural states, produces well over 300-million bushels of wheat, nearly 700-million bushels of corn, and roughly 8 million head of cattle each year. From a real estate perspective, that’s 45,759,319 acres - and the state of Kansas comprises 52,657,178 acres total. In other words, around 87% of Kansas is farmland.
What’s more, the Kansas Department of Agriculture reports that 250,058 jobs are fueled by the local agricultural and food processing industries. Needless to say, Kansas agriculture plays a major role in the state’s economy and the well-being of the entire country.
What Climate Change Models Predict
According to one report, “Economic Impacts of Climate Change on Kansas” published by the Center for Integrative Environmental Research at the University of Maryland, which specifically monitors climate in major U.S. agricultural producers, the Sunflower State could face a range of issues:
“[The] effects of climate change on the agriculture industry in Kansas could include increased incidence of flooding, improved conditions for invasive species, damage to crops and livestock from increased temperatures and lower precipitation, and changes in rangeland characteristics,” the report says.
Other models, like those used in the 4th National Climate Report, echo similar sentiments and also say that periods of severe drought could persist for longer.
Why Climate Change Can Directly Affect Real Estate
Farmers and agricultural businesses run on tight margins with sizable amounts of capital, which is a big reason why more sustainable practices have yet to be integrated broadly - it’s just not economic yet. Because of this inability to innovate and integrate new practices on a large scale, the industry is at risk. Should an invasive species decimate crops followed by years of drought, many operations risk defaulting on their ag-lending and flooding the market with less-than-desirable farmland.
In terms of residential real estate, Kansas City was ranked fifth in cities most likely to be affected by climate change. Dennis Murphey, chief environmental officer for the city of Kansas City, MO, notes that the heat island effect (urban areas heating up due to buildings, roads, and a lack of vegetation to keep cool), drought, and flooding are issues Kansas City already battles, and they will be more difficult to combat with increased extreme weather patterns.
If the effects rippling through agriculture banking aren’t enough, real estate professionals will have to keep a keen eye out for neighborhoods that are prone to flooding.
What’s Being Done
In Kansas City specifically, lawmakers have passed Resolution No. 200005 which lays out a 20-year plan to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. The city aims to accomplish this goal through programs that encourage solutions such as increasing building efficiency, investing in carbon sequestration, using renewables wherever possible, reducing waste, building electric vehicle infrastructure, upgrading water heaters, employing space heaters, providing public transit options, building upon walking and bicycling access, to name a few. Already, Kansas City is making huge strides in EV adoption.
"In May of 2020, City Council passed Resolution No. 200005 directing the Office of Environmental Quality to update the Climate Protection Plan to include new greenhouse gas reduction goals, resiliency, and equity. The result will be a Climate Protection and Resiliency Plan that builds upon the climate protection strategies from the original plan and includes a framework to help our city adapt to the climate impacts we are already facing. The goal is a carbon-neutral, equity-focused, and resilient Kansas City by 2040."
As always, the necessity for change is helping spur new innovations. From electric vehicles to hydrogen fuel cells, carbon sinks, and even what we feed our livestock are all ways that emissions can be reduced. Of course, like alfalfa subsidies, it might just take a little nudge from Uncle Sam.