Oklahoma is vulnerable to increasing heat, floods, droughts, and wildfires
Overall, Oklahoma will become warmer, seeing both stronger floods and droughts because of climate change. While most of Oklahoma did not warm during the past 50-100 years, soils are drier, annual rainfall has increased with an increased likelihood for strong downpours, and wildfires and extreme weather are more likely.
- Increasing temperatures: Extreme heat will increase in the Great Plains region. Days where the maximum temperature exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Southern Plains are projected to double by mid-century. The average resident of these states experienced 35 days per year over 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 30 years. A Risky Business report projects this number will likely increase by 26 to 56 additional extremely hot days by mid-century and 56 to 108 days per year by the end of the century. This means a total of three to four months of additional extreme hot days per year. The National Climate Assessment found that rising temperatures lead to increased demand for water and energy in the Great Plains while also making it less available. This will constrain development, stress natural resources, and increase competition for water. Higher temperatures will likely reduce the productivity of farms and ranches, change parts of the landscape, and harm human health.
- Increased variability: According to a 2015 report by the USDA, “highly variable weather has been a benchmark of life and agriculture in the Southern Great Plains since long before the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas were formed.” However, “over the last 15 years, the region has experienced an increasing frequency of some of the more extreme events central to agriculture, a direct result of more dynamic atmospheric behavior,” including “extensive, crippling periods of drought that ended with record-breaking downpours and flooding.”
- Wildfires: The record-breaking wildfires that erupted in early March 2017 in the Great Plains are consistent with the long-term increasing wildfire activity observed in the western US grasslands, activity driven by climate change trends in the Great Plains region.
- Adaptation: Oklahoma has not developed a statewide climate adaptation plan.
Oklahoma residents support clean energy and climate regulations
- According to the Yale Map Project on Climate Change Communication 63% of Oklahoma residents recognize that global warming is happening. The Project finds that 68% of residents support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and 78% support funding research into renewable energy sources.
Oklahoma is a leader in wind development
- Oklahoma ranks third in the US for installed wind capacity, providing over one-fourth of its net generation.
- Oklahoma ranks 45th in the country in installed solar with 5.2 MW of solar capacity, enough to power 570 homes. There are currently 27 solar companies working throughout the value chain in the state, employing 400 people.
- The state had set a voluntary renewable energy goal of 15% by 2015, meeting the goal and more with wind capacity.