Marshall Shepherd’s recent column at Forbes details why climate change's effects matter in a very understandable and impactful way. I just love his opening, in which he uses the analogy that "weather is your mood, and climate is your personality." The four reasons he cites to support this are:
- We Need to Eat. Irrespective of where you live, agriculture sustains life but is one of the most climate-sensitive activities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a report in 2013 called Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States, which found that increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns will affect agricultural productivity. Increases in temperature coupled with more variable precipitation will reduce productivity of crops, and these effects will outweigh the benefits of increasing carbon dioxide.
- We Feel the Economic Impacts. Farming is a key pillar of the U.S. economy. U.S. farms accounted for a $136.7 billion contribution to the overall economy (in 2015 numbers) and 1.4% of employment.
- Rural Communities Are Particularly Vulnerable. According to the National Climate Assessment report, 444 counties in the U.S. were identified as farming-dependent during the period of 2010 to 2012—391 of them were rural counties. I want to offer some personal perspective here.
- There Is Hope, Shepherd Writes. Bioenergy cropping is increasing and remains a major focus of research to develop appropriate dedicated feedstocks for different regions of the United States. Technological advancements through concerted public and private efforts and the increasing availability of inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides and feed additives) have led to significant improvements in productivity while reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint.
Four important reasons to pay attention to agriculture.