Tuesday, September 02, 2008

US Agriculture & Climate change

A supposedly (only say cause I haven't fully investigated, though it's run by a Democrat Senator with some conservative researchers...so seems likely) non-partisan research group called 'Resources for the Future' published a report on the affects of climate change on Agriculture. Here's the summary and 3 main bullet points:

Despite its relatively small role in generating carbon dioxide (CO2), agriculture is frequently discussed in the context of climate change - for several reasons. First, agriculture is one of the key sectors of the economy that may be strongly affected by climate change. Second, while relatively unimportant for CO2 emissions, the agriculture sector is a major source of other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, notably nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4). Third, agricultural practices provide opportunities for soil-based carbon sequestration, potentially a relatively cheap mitigation option. Fourth, the recent biofuels boom is transforming U.S. agriculture in ways that have implications not only for GHG emissions and energy production, but also for agriculture and the food sector as a whole. This issue brief brings together each of these aspects of the connection between agriculture and climate change.1

IB 13
Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture

Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture

* Climate change is not expected to materially alter the overall ability of the United States to feed its population and remain a strong agricultural exporter. Generally, climate change is predicted to have overall positive but relatively modest consequences on agricultural production in the United States over the next 30 to 100 years. Longer term consequences are less well understood.

* At the regional level, however, projected effects on agriculture are considerable. Climate change is expected to reduce agricultural output in the South but increase production in northern regions, especially the Great Lakes.

* Predicting changes in precipitation patterns, extreme weather effects, pest populations, plant diseases, and other production risks is inherently difficult. Current assessments do not fully account for potential effects on agriculture from these climate impacts.

I found it very interesting that they don't think the next 10-30 years of climate change will affect overall production. It makes sense that northern areas will have longer growing seasons and produce more to offset the reduced production in the south. But the latter point is troubling for those of us who live in the south. It seems there's not much we can do about this either. Misters for our crops? Huge pergola's or shade cloth? I guess it means we'll at least be able to grow some more tropical plants. My mom mentioned she doesn't have to bring her begonias in for the winter anymore. They do just fine.

The most interesting point, though, is about carbon sequestration. I sincerely hope people pay attention to the studies out there showing 15%-28% higher carbon sequestration in Organic soil than conventional soil. Healthy soil not only produces healthy plants & healthy food, but it also helps absorb more carbon! If all of the US acreage of Corn and Soy were farmed organically, the dirt..all by itself, for free..would absorb about 290 million tons of CO2 each year. Sometimes the simplest answer also happens to be the best.

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