Know Thy Climate

02:48AM Aug 06, 2014
( )
Jeanne Bernick
President Barack Obama thinks America has a moral obligation to lead the fight against climate change. 

"We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late," Obama said this spring after the release of the National Climate Assessment. The 829-page report might not do anything to protect us from extreme weather, but it has stoked the coals of a hot debate on climate change.

Whether you support Obama’s moral imperative on climate change or not, I urge you to become informed about the topic. As a farmer, you will be asked at some point, somewhere, to share your opinion on the issue. Americans have found it hard to have a rational discussion about global warming since 2006, when the documentary An Inconvenient Truth hit theaters. Today, views of climate change leave people concerned, dismissive or uninformed. 

To help sort out the subject, Farm Journal Media will devote multimedia coverage to climate change.
(See Weather the Storm and The Cost of Change)

A Practical Issue. The scientific evidence leaves little doubt our production environments are changing, and agriculture will be affected. "Some farmers, just like some of the general public, are skeptical climate change is even real," notes Vern Grubinger, crop specialist at the University of Vermont. "Others are doubtful it will affect ag, and some don’t want to bring it up for fear it might generate more concern about the environmental impact of farming. Others are already preparing for it.

"To me, it’s not a political issue but a practical one," Grubringer says. "Farmers should manage for changes of any type that have a reasonable chance of affecting them." 

Can farmers afford to ignore climate change when 900 million people are chronically hungry? The reality remains that our food system must meet growing demand from a larger and wealthier population while dealing with scarcity of water and land.

Humans have adapted how they produce, process and transport food for centuries, but climate change raises the stakes in unique ways; its effects are global and varying. In the next 35 years, many farmers will face conditions outside historical experience. You can’t afford to be uninformed.