Climate Action in the States – Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas
In this post of examining climate action across the United States, we are focusing on Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas. Three states in the middle of the county, each working to address the climate crisis in their own ways.
In Kentucky the focus is on the economy and creating resilient jobs. While in Missouri much of the work on climate is in academia, lead by professors and students. And with its great wind energy potential, Kansas is leading the country on renewable power generation.
While the term “climate change” is a political trigger in Kentucky, the words “sustainability”, “conservation”, “pollution”, and “economic opportunity” are not. These are the words that drive climate action in this state. Kentucky has very strong coal interests that have held back the transition to clean energy sources. However, Governor Beshear released a plan in 2021 to create a more resilient economy: KYE3. This plan walks a fine line – it doesn’t mandate change or even set goals, but rather points to “innovative emerging industry opportunities”, a “diverse energy portfolio”, and an infrastructure that will “enable us to step boldly into the future”. The business community, which includes Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Walmart, and L’Oréal, supports this vision more than the legislature, and that is making it possible to move forward.
In academia, the Kentucky Climate Consortium has 50 members across 14 academic institutions, engaged in research, teaching, and community outreach. Their work endeavors to broaden the discussion of climate-related issues across the state. In addition, students are organizing around climate, notably in the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition and a vibrant Sunrise movement. Two academic institutions, University of Kentucky and Bowling Green State University, have campus climate/sustainability action plans.
Civic organizations like Bluegrass Greensource and KY Environmental Foundation are very aligned and their efforts are all in the direction of a safter, more livable planet. Finally, the City of Louisville is very committed and acting on its climate action plans.
Washington University’s Climate Change Program runs the Missouri Climate Dialogues. These events offer a space for students and the people of Missouri to engage and learn about climate risks and action. The University of Missouri has a climate research center as well as a program to train students in climate policy analysis. The Cooperative Extension program at the University of Missouri and Lincoln University co-host a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE). SARE helps the state’s rural community manage the effects of climate change and the impacts to farming practice, including new crops, new pests and diseases, and new forms of energy. High school teachers have also taken it on themselves to teach about climate, even though it is not required curriculum.
Nonprofits are also engaged on climate across the state. Both the MO Coalition for the Environment and Environment Missouri are working towards a Missouri with clean, healthy air, water, energy, and environment.
The state government is in a stalemate on climate action. However, the people of the state are moving forward. Half of the population of thinks that climate change is a real problem and must be addressed, according to a 2022 survey by the Docking Institute at Fort Hays University.
In Kansas, climate work is significantly focused on the energy transition. In 2021, the US Energy Information Administration stated that “renewable resources provided 45% of Kansas’s in-state electricity net generation”. Almost all of that was from wind energy. In 2021, Kansas had the third-largest share of electricity generation from wind power of any state. Kansas is one of the top 10 sunniest states in the country and interest in solar power is growing.
Locally, two areas are undertaking climate action planning and implementation: Climate Action KC, encompassing a 9-county region surrounding Kansas City, and the City of Lawrence. Both are addressing mitigation, adaptation, and equity issues in their efforts.
Statewide, the pro-climate people of Kansas are coming together through the Kansas Climate & Health Declaration, which has 43 organizational signatories. The Declaration represents a diverse array of interests: energy, legal, rural, tribes, healthcare, cities, and faith-based groups. The Climate & Energy Project is the action arm coming from that Declaration. They are “driving practical solutions for an equitable transition to a clean energy future”. Their efforts extend beyond energy to encompass adaptation, policy, community engagement, leadership development, and voter activation.
Finally, in academia, The University of Kansas and Kansas State University are helping the statewide effort through their Extension Service outreach, on-campus sustainability program and an environmental studies program.