Thursday, February 14, 2013

Climate Change by the USDA

The USDA just released their report on the impact of climate change on agriculture. In short, higher temperatures, more variable rain and more extreme weather will all take a toll on both crops and livestock, and while there are some measures farmers can take, like selecting more adapted cultivars, growing different crops, irrigation, tiling, crop insurance or building better insulated barns, the most effective in the long term will be to reverse global warming.

Also evident (and frustrating) in the report is the fact that we are entering a brand new territory and we have no previous history of such an event to estimate how it will affect agriculture locally or globally. Some crops will obviously move northward, but what will replace them in the southern regions? With a growing season 20-40 days longer, will we be able to grow two main crops in one season? Will there be enough water to grow these crops? And so many questions that do not have full answers.

The USDA report is 186 pages long but 40 of these pages are the hundreds of papers and references compiled into the report. It should be mandatory reading to all farmers, even non-American ones. By the way, some of the graphs in it show for instance that the number of farms and acreage has been stable for 20 years (last decade data not available yet), another reason to fill in that farm survey every 5 years (and the deadline has just been extended too).

The USDA published a similar report on climate change and forestry, and dozens of outlets reported on both. The impact on forestry will probably be more important, as agriculture is artificial, mostly annual for crops and mostly controlled by man, while we don't have much control over the Rockies or Appalachian forests.

The sad thing is that many climate change denialists will ignore this report. In Iowa for instance, only 10% of the farmers believe that climate change is caused by man, so there is a strong sociological barrier before accepting the situation.

Together with the reports, the USDA published an adaptation plan on how to beat this climate change; The plan is publicly open for review until April 8.

Won't be long before we grow prickly pears and raise African cattle...



  1. I learned much about the planet thanks to Milos Radikovich on the cruise ship and the exhibits we saw in various places. The plates under Australia are very old and there is reason why they have kangaroos and other rare animals and we don't and vice versa.

    The world is so old in our eyes we know littlw about it. Farmers don't even understand what is under their feet and I am one of them.

    Climate change? It was set in motion a long, long time ago but that is just a speck in God's eyes.

    Good information Chimel, this concurs with what I have been hearing, too.

    I expect another challenging year climate wise.


  2. Well good for the USDA, they were able to spend quite a lot of money and prove their worth to those who are on the right side of the current political trend.
    Of course attempting to argue religion on the internet is pretty pointless.
    The earth goes through cycles. Events effect the climate in various ways. Volcanic eruptions have done it. The Great Plains has had severe drought before now. There were climate cycles that were advantageous to settlers 150 years ago that are changing.
    Clever folks have figured out a way to assign value to hard to define events and create a political ideology.
    So the USDA puts together data to support their hypothesis and everyone lines up to make money off the change. The first folks on the Green money cycle will make money, those of us who are slow to change will lose money. In the mean time the climate may or may not change. The magnetic poles may or may not shift and a huge solar flare may or may not wipe out all electronics except for my aging Dynaco tube amp.
    The issue is not with climate change but with the transfer of power and influence. The quest to stop what we now presume to be Man-made climate change will make new millionaires and political fortunes and the forces of nature may or may not do what we predict. But we will continue to give meaning to random events and call it either science or religion depending on your perspective.
    If only Monsanto were against man made climate change then the woolen underwear folks would be shrill in favor of it rather than opposed.
    I am really sure I heard that FOX news and Dick Cheney and George Bush have all banded together to stop man-made climate change. Bet that will get you to go out and vent some freon!

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