Archive for February, 2015

Farming and climate change

As a plant doctor I can see that the effects of a warming climate in California are affecting our crops in many ways. Decreasing water supplies force many farmers to stretch irrigations further apart and use less water. This water stress not only hurts the current crop but in many permanent crops, will impact the crop into the seasons to come. Pests are emerging earlier and some are having extra hatches later in the year because the temperatures start higher and remain higher throughout the season. That means the potential for increase in pesticide use and less crop yields due to pest issues.  Warmer weather also impacts disease cycles as many fungal and bacterial disease like warmer temperatures.  Warmer weather means tree fruit and nuts are not getting the “chill hours” they need to bloom and set fruit properly. This is all impacting the productivity of our agriculture industry.

The farming industry has yet to acknowledge the truth about climate change and how it is affecting their industry. Scientists have studied climate change and over 90% have determined that it is our carbon-based industries that are causing the rapid change in our climate. Science is showing that the probability of long mega droughts will be higher as climate change continues. The loss of farm income jobs and the degradation of our underground water supply should be concern enough for farmers and the agriculture industry to start taking a more aggressive approach towards legislation to mitigate the problems of carbon products in our society.

The agriculture industry prides itself in using science especially when it comes to regulations and legislation that affects their industry. But on the question of climate change many in the industry refuse to believe the clear science that shows it is our use of petroleum products that is causing the increase of carbon in our atmosphere and the changes we are seeing in the climate today. One cannot embrace science only when the outcome is favorable to their way of life and reject it when it is inconvenient. It seems that many farmers’ views on the subject are more political than scientific (see this article).

The views and policies of the agriculture industry regarding climate change are old and outdated. It is time that they get behind the push for a carbon tax and start supporting the cap and trade market. Simply building more reservoirs to capture rainfall that is not happening and making fixes to to a water supply system designed to move rainfall from one part of the state to another is not going to solve the problem as rainfall and snow pack diminish. Leaders in the agriculture industry need to wake up and start listening to the science and stop the misguided mantra of “it has to rain sometime”. It may rain sometime but odds are that, in the future, it will not be enough to meet our current needs.

This issue is not going away. In order to save our agriculture industry and way of life we must act. We must get our heads out of the sand and start looking at policies and legislation that will help reduce our country’s reliance on carbon and push our country into a better way of using energy.

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