Alan Guebert: Doing nothing does nothing
April 4, 2014
The March 31 front page of almost every daily newspaper in the world featured dire headlines for a story made public the night before by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
"Climate change already affecting food supply," announced The Guardian in England. "Worst is Yet to Come," noted that day's New York Times. "UN panel: Warming worsens food, hunger problems," headlined the Associated Press story sent to member news organizations.
Indeed, the U.N. climate change report (link to it and other sources cited here at http://farmandfoodfile.com/in-the-news/) was big news for everyone everywhere except, it seems, U.S. farm and ranch groups and their members.
In fact, more than 24 hours after the report and its grim forecasts ricocheted the world over, most major American farm groups had yet to even acknowledge the report and the impacts its 72 authors predict climate change will have on the world's farms, farmers and food production.
Golly, climate change and its effect on farms and ranch production and lives will just go away if no one at the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Wheat Growers Association mentions it?
Not even the climate-change denying, Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal went that far. It at least covered the report; OK, on page A8 of its April Fool's Day edition.
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Few see the latest U.N. climate report as foolish because, for the first time, it uses hard data to project the world we'll leave our children and grandchildren if we continue our climate-changing carbon-burning binge.
It's not a pretty picture. According to the report:
–"In dry regions, drought frequency will likely increase… [and] climate change is likely to reduce raw water quality and post risks to drinking water quality…"
–Rising ocean levels and super storms (like Sandy that caused $65 billion in damage to New Jersey, New York and other East Coast states in 2012) will "increase significantly" and, increasingly, expose "population and assets to coastal risks."
–"…by the mid 21st century and beyond, global marine-species redistribution and marine-biodiversity reduction in sensitive regions will challenge the sustained provision of fisheries productivity and other ecosystem services…" and
–"For the major crops (wheat, rice, and maize) in tropical and temperate regions, climate change without adaptation is projected to negatively impact production… Projected impacts vary… with about 10% of projections for the period 2030-2049 showing yield gains of more than 10%, and about 10% of projections showing yield losses of more than 25%…"
All this, continues the report, "combined with increasing food demand, would pose large risks to food security globally and regionally…"
This should not be news to anyone in American agriculture. Wild climate swings have hammered the cattle, corn, vegetable and fruit sectors in the last decade and sustained drought continues to devastate huge ag areas from the High Plains to California.
It certainly isn't news to the land grant universities that research global warming. At the forefront is Eugene Takle, a professor of agronomy and director of Iowa State University's Climate Science Program.
Currently, Takle and ISU colleague Jerry Hatfield, director of the National Lab for Agriculture and Environment, are lead authors of the ag chapter of the mandated 2014 National Climate Assessment. The report, due later this month, "will paint a sobering picture of climate change globally and its impacts on the U.S.," Takle related when interviewed last fall for a campus publication.
"One of the key messages of the report," Takle said "is that the incidence of weather extremes will continue and will have increasingly negative effects on crop and livestock productivity because critical thresholds are already being exceeded."
At least someone at a respected American agricultural institution believes climate change will be the 21st century farm and ranch game changer. Too bad it's not an actual farm or ranch group.