LAWRENCE — As the 2022 midterm elections near, climate, transportation and related policies are among the issues coming to the forefront among climate voters and the broader electorate. University of Kansas School of Public Affairs & Administration and Environmental Studies Program faculty experts are available to speak with media about climate, climate change, public planning, infrastructure, transportation and related issues’ relevance in the November midterm elections and how such policies affect the daily lives of citizens and public officials.
Bradley Lane, associate professor of public affairs & administration, is an expert in transportation, transportation policy and related issues. He can discuss fuel prices, electric and autonomous vehicles, public transportation and the role of transportation issues on the campaign trail.
“Now is one of the most exciting times for transportation. Evolving technologies like electric-powered vehicles and automation, and mobility services providing cars, e-bikes and e-scooters promise to affect how our society moves,” Lane said. “Disruptive phenomena like the COVID-19 pandemic and fluctuating gasoline costs are making us think more about how we get around, how we make a living and what kind of lives we want to live. But exactly what these changes will be and how our lives will change is a story that remains to be told.”
Lane has researched and written extensively on transportation issues. He can discuss national topics such as federal transportation policy and local/regional issues like the recent announcement of a $4 billion Panasonic plant in northeast Kansas that will manufacture batteries for electric vehicles.
Ward Lyles, associate professor of public affairs & administration, can discuss climate and its role in communities and public planning. Issues such as flooding, catastrophic storms, the role of climate change therein and how public officials plan — and sometimes fail to plan — for handling such events.
“Climate change now touches every aspect of our lives in Kansas and around the country, even though it can be hard to admit that because doing so means we have to deal with an increasingly uncertain and scary future,” Lyles said. “What we know is that over the next few years, Kansas and all states will make critical choices that will shape whether its economy, landscape and people suffer or prosper for decades to come. We need to discuss these choices and their implications every day from here forward.”
Lyles has conducted research in how public officials plan for handling events such as floods, how natural disasters affect public infrastructure and the role of caring in public planning. He can discuss such topics on national, state and local levels, including the Panasonic plan, land use and related issues in northeast Kansas.
Shannon O'Lear, professor of geography & atmospheric science and director of KU's Environmental Studies Program, can discuss the political geography of environmental issues, environmental security and vulnerability, human dimensions of global change and climate science. She’s the author of the 2018 book “Environmental Geopolitics,” which covers topics from energy and food security to resource conflict.
"The biggest environmental concern that candidates should be talking about and urged to take action on is infrastructure to support America in a changing climate and with justice and equity in mind," O'Lear said. "Water is already proving to be significant in different ways."
The KU geographer said current events, like flooding in Kentucky, demonstrate that the U.S. is not ready for more frequent and more intense storms. Current events also demonstrate that economic practices are not adapting to increased drought, citing cattle operations in western Kansas and altered allocations of the Colorado River, and that water infrastructure continues to fail, as in Jackson, Mississippi.
"Our ability to provide, withstand and adjust to changes in the availability, reliability and sudden changes to water supply should have us thinking about how we are — as a country, as states, as municipalities, and as agricultural and industrial regions — utilizing and preparing for the new context of water in the current circumstances of a dynamic climate. Privatizing water supplies may be an easy answer, initially, but it will be important to think in terms of establishing a foundation for equitable and just access to water into the future."
O'Lear said energy infrastructure is another concern.
"We know that stepping back from fossil fuels is the only reliable, long-term way to slow atmospheric warming — and hydraulic fracturing, which is not even allowed in most European countries, is toxifying huge volumes of water that are needed elsewhere," she said. "Just as important as stepping back from fossil fuel reliance is facilitating the development of wind and solar power. Currently, there are bottlenecks in supplies and in regulation that are keeping promising energy infrastructure from being built. Expanding the grid of renewable energy – or maybe shrinking the grid to be more decentralized and flexible – could be done in a way that supports consumers in a fair and reliable way."
The KU researcher suggested public perception of resource consumption could drive societal change.
"What would happen to our water supply if Americans were incentivized to replace thirsty, chemical-reliant lawns with native plants or gardens, for instance?" she said. "There was a time in this country when fur coats were equated with glamour and quality, but many people have changed their minds about what it means to wear fur. How might we generate a similar change in thinking and practice around how much water and energy we consume? I would be very interested to listen to a candidate who is talking about easing the demand on our infrastructure and allowing a more equitable distribution."
To schedule an interview with O'Lear, contact Brendan Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-864-8855.