Year 4, Month 12, Day 29: Stately, Plump, Buck Mulligan…

The Port Huron Times-Herald reports on Michigan’s farmers, who are getting smacked upside the head by climate change:

Tim Boring knew it wasn’t a normal drought when the fields on his Stockbridge farm started to dry up during the summer of 2012.

Nobody escaped the magnitude of heat and dryness that year. Certainly not farmers.

“That drought impacted everyone,” said Boring, who produces corn, soybeans and wheat at his family-owned O’Brien Farms when he isn’t working his job as Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee research director. “It was certainly one of our biggest cases of severe weather lately.”

The drought wiped out a variety of crops, from corn to soybeans, and sent crop prices surging. Pictures of dried up, fractured grounds, stained corn leaves and livestock agonizing under the extreme heat were inescapable.

The dry conditions finally faded away, but not before earning the mark of the worst drought in a nearly a quarter-century, according to the Michigan State University Extension.

Severe weather events such as these, some experts and farmers worry, are on the rise.

I’ve used this letter many times in many different guises: epistodiversity! December 15:

Michigan’s farmers aren’t the only ones coming face to face with climate change’s troublesome realities. Extreme and unpredictable weather is disrupting planting schedules, making for increasingly uncertain harvests everywhere on Earth.

Coping with the accelerating climate crisis will require growers to change many of their ways. The era of massive monocropping is coming to an end; the potential for catastrophic crop failures from environmental disruptions or invasive pests is all too real, and highlights the importance of diversity in our agricultural system. A world-wide re-enactment of the Irish potato famine is a nightmarish thing to to contemplate.

There are countless viewpoints about the best strategies to prepare for a climatically-transformed future, but one thing’s absolutely certain: we’ll never successfully address the problem if we cannot admit its existence. Just like farmers in Michigan, our media figures and elected representatives must realize that the time for climate-change denial is long past.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 12, Day 12: Whatever It Is, I’m Against It.

The Lincoln Journal-Star (NE) on the relative unpreparedness of coastal vs. inland states for the impacts of climate change:

Eighteen states, including Delaware, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Wyoming and others, were ranked as Category 1, meaning that their plans either mention nothing about climate change or discuss climate change with confusing, dismissive or inaccurate information. Colorado, California, New York and eight others that included the most thorough and accurate discussion of climate change were ranked as Category 4, while the remaining states fell between the two categories.

“By identifying the most thorough plans that have been prepared, we hope to provide planners in other states with models that can serve as a place to start in upgrading their own plans,” said Michael B. Gerrard, director of Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law, which conducted the survey.

Since the data were gathered, about half the states have begun revising their hazard mitigation plans. Some revisions that have been completed are not accounted for in the survey, he said.

The hazard mitigation plan for Colorado, the only western land-locked state the report ranked in Category 4, focuses on how climate change could have a significant impact on drought and water resources in the state. Colorado recently has experienced numerous climate change-influenced extreme weather events, including a withering drought, the state’s two most destructive wildfire seasons in its history and catastrophic flooding.

“The example of Colorado shows that climate-related hazards are not only coastal; land-locked states have their own hazards, and there are ways to anticipate them and plan for them,” Gerrard said.

States whose hazard mitigation plans ignore climate change entirely are Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The Mississippi and Montana plans discuss climate change only as a source of added complexity when dealing with wildfire, the report says.

A generic Republican-bashing letter. November 30:

The most immediately obvious impact of global climate change is the intensity and frequency of storm activity, so it makes sense that coastal dwellers will be more keenly aware of the crisis. But inland states’ unpreparedness cannot be entirely blamed on geography, for there is nowhere on Earth where the consequences of the accelerating greenhouse effect are not felt, and the facts of climate science are by now well-known.

Did I say “nowhere”? Perhaps I misspoke. It’s surely revealing that of the eight states which ignore climate pressures completely in their disaster planning, all but one are governed by members of a political party which is now dominated by science-denial and magical thinking. Republican lawmakers seem to be completely insulated from the obvious realities of a changing climate — a state of affairs which is a sad comedown for the erstwhile party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 17: There Is No Greater Love

The Boise Weekly assesses climate impacts on Idaho:

Winter in Idaho is many things: bracing, frustrating, stunningly beautiful, exhilarating, inversion-stricken, way too long or way too short. No matter how the season measures up, it remains one thing: the climatic engine that drives everything else for the rest of the year.

In the West, water rules all, and in a place like Idaho, where roughly 80 percent of the annual precipitation comes in the form of snow, the entire economy–even the lifestyle–is tied in some way to winter. From irrigating crops to moving water down the rivers for recreation, and from flood management to supporting the water needs of a growing population (and keeping things green enough that the whole area doesn’t burst into flames every summer), everything depends on winter snows and the spring runoff they create.

But what if Idaho winters went the way of the dodo? What if continued climate changes mean that winters heat up and seasonal snows become a memory told in tales that start with the phrase, “When I was a kid…”?

The Bad News

While there are still some skeptics out there, the majority of scientists now agree that the world is experiencing climate change and that its effects vary by location. In Idaho, forecasting models predict that winters will continue to get warmer and, because of that, most of the precipitation in the Treasure Valley will come in the form of rain, with snows limited to higher and higher elevations.

This also means that hot, dry summers will likely continue to be the norm, but without winter snows and spring runoff, the strategy for coping with those conditions will have to change.

“Everything here ties back to water and our ability to keep it,” said Scott Lowe, associate professor in the Department of Economics at Boise State University and director of the Environmental Studies Program.

“This nexus of water, energy, agriculture … we have an understanding of it, but people in the Treasure Valley don’t realize to what extent it’s intertwined,” Lowe said.

Nobody does, sir. Nobody does. November 7:

When it comes to confronting the troublesome facts of climate change, Idaho’s farmers aren’t alone. All over on Earth, we’re waking up to the realization that that the tab for a century-long binge on fossil-fuels is coming due. Whether they’re monocropping food factories in the corn belt or sharecropping peasants in nations like Bangladesh, agriculturists are discovering that the predictable seasons and stable regional environments that made productive farming possible are being compromised — often enough to trigger crop failures or drastically reduced yields — by the consequences of an accelerating greenhouse effect.

To prepare for the coming decades of increased climatic instability, we need arguments; we need a vigorous public discussion of coping strategies, risk assessment, and scientific findings. But we don’t need any more arguments about the existence, causes, and harmful potentials of climate change; that subject is as settled as (for example) the link between smoking and cancer.

The oil and coal industries still supporting climate-deniers in our media and politics do not have the best interests of our species at heart; they sacrifice our collective future at the altar of profit.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 16: It’s As Plain As The Face Underneath Your Nose

The Capital Press (WA) talks to farmers, who are worried about water, not the bigger picture.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Water worries carry more weight than climate change for two Western Washington farmers.

Dairy farmer Jay Gordon sees too much water, and he doesn’t know whether to blame coal-burning in China or a warming Earth, but “for a bunch of us in the Chehalis, the question is over: It’s raining more.”

Gordon and his wife own a 600-acre dairy on the Chehalis River that his family homesteaded in 1872. The river has flooded many times during that span. The most recent major floods, in 2007 and 2009, left vast areas of farmland and a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 underwater.

“The river gauge shows earlier floods, more floods and higher levels,” he said. “We’ve had four 100-year floods in 23 years’ time; 75 percent of the highest floods were in the past 23 years.”

He said fellow dairy farmers have told him, “I can’t handle one more of these. This is getting old.”

Gordon, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation, spoke during a recent symposium on “Climate Change and the Future of Food.” Symposium sponsors and coordinators included Washington State University, the University of Washington, government agencies, conservation districts, researchers and a shellfish producer.

Henry Bierlink, executive director of the Washington Red Raspberry Commission, said he doesn’t see climate change as a high priority.

“Everyone in ag knows about adapting to change,” he said. “It’s down on the list of worries.”

Uh-huh. November 6:

To worry about water while dismissing climate change is to obsess over symptoms while ignoring the sickness that causes them. A transforming climate cannot be separated from the state of water resources, whether they’re in the American West, the steppes of Central Asia, or the heart of the Amazon. A hotter atmosphere evaporates more water, creating higher humidity conditions while adding energy to the system as a whole. The result: more precipitation, less predictability — both conditions which make agriculture more difficult.

The phrase “climate change”, while an accurate description of a global phenomenon, doesn’t adequately convey the local and regional consequences of the accelerating greenhouse effect. Some areas will experience devastating droughts — while elsewhere on the globe, that missing water will be flooding villagers and drowning fields. Extreme and unseasonal storms, wilder temperature swings, and significant loss of necessary biodiversity are just some of the symptoms we can expect in the coming decades as our increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2 make their impacts felt.

The future of water is inextricably linked to the future of our planet’s climate; to dismiss or downplay the connection is like fixating on birthday parties — while ignoring the processes of aging.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 3: They Asked Me For Some Collateral, So I Pulled Down My Pants

Popular Science notes the existence of Iowa:

At the Iowa Climate Science Educators’ Forum last week, a group of more than 150 scientists representing 36 colleges and universities around Iowa released a statement of action concerning future climate change. Calling climate change a “rising challenge to Iowa agriculture,” this year’s Iowa Climate Statement says that changing weather patterns and an increase in extreme events has put the state’s ability to grow food at risk.

The researchers, who gathered at Drake University in Des Moines, note that Iowa has vacillated between two weather extremes over the past few years. The state went from widespread drought in 2011 and 2012 to the wettest spring on record in 2013 and back to drought this summer. Last year, the group’s report focused mainly on how climate change makes extreme drought more likely.

Iowa is the nation’s top corn and soybean producer, so this state’s problems are really every state’s problems. Combined, Iowa and Illinois grow about a third of the corn in the U.S. The scientists are calling for individual farms and the USDA to work to make the land more resilient in the face of climate change. They wrote:

Iowa’s soils and agriculture remain our most important economic resources, but these resources are threatened by climate change. It is time for all Iowans to work together to limit future climate change and make Iowa more resilient to extreme weather. Doing so will allow us to pass on to future generations our proud tradition of helping to feed the world.

I keep recycling this letter. It’s fast and easy. October 24:

It’s small comfort for Iowa’s farmers to know they’re not alone in facing the troublesome consequences of global climate change. Agriculturists everywhere — midwestern factory farmers and Bangladeshi peasants alike — are reluctantly confronting a future of unpredictable and extreme weather, disrupted planting timetables, and ever-more uncertain harvests.

There are many lessons to take away from this. Obviously, it is essential that the world’s industrialized civilizations begin drastic reductions in greenhouse emissions; there’s no sense in making a disaster even worse. In addition, we need to relearn that diversity is essential to the preservation of our food systems. As the Irish potato famine demonstrated, monocropped agriculture will always eventually fall prey to ecological and environmental disruptions, with disastrous consequences.

There may be differences of opinion about the best way to prepare for the rapidly accelerating greenhouse effect — but one thing is absolutely certain: the first step to addressing any problem is to recognize its existence. Politicians and media figures who deny these new climatic realities are nurturing the seeds of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 10, Day 28: We’re Paying For You Like An Adult!

The Des Moines Register, on food and farming:

Farmers already see climate change: While a debate rages over the causes of climate change, farmers in South America and Africa are dealing with the realities of climate change.

The consequences of rising temperatures are more extreme weather events, including drought and floods, and changing growing conditions. Scientists and farmers there are struggling to deal with both.

On the science, some experts credit improved plant genetics, in large part, for the ability of farmers in the United States to harvest the eighth-largest corn crop last year, even in a year of record drought. Monsanto has developed a new drought-resistant variety of maize that is being tested in Africa, and it is working with private organizations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to introduce it to farmers in Africa.

Of course, no debate actually rages, unless you count all the rage on one side. October 18:

While farmers all over the planet are facing increasingly unpredictable harvests due to the complex consequences of climate change, most of their customers continue to live in a state of denial. It’s easy and tempting to attribute this to the irresponsibility of our mass media and its near-pathological inability to address issues of major importance, but there is another factor: the overwhelming success of our large-scale agricultural system, which allows millions of people to eat well every day without putting in hours of work growing their own food. Paradoxically, industrialized farming may well turn out to be one of the first casualties of the accelerating greenhouse effect, as increasingly variable weather and fluctuating extremes make monocropping ever more vulnerable to catastrophic failures.

We cannot solve the problems of climate change without recognizing the reality of the crisis, which demands accurate environmental journalism and an end to “false equivalence” — and we will not last long as a species without a diverse and resilient food supply. For humanity to survive this slowly-unfolding crisis, both our minds and bodies need sustainable nourishment.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 10, Day 23: Use It Up, Wear It Out

The Sierra Vista Herald (AZ) announces a talk on regional impacts by a local climatologist:

A University of Arizona climate expert will discuss how increasing climate instability will affect the residents and landscapes of the U.S. Southwest during the Huachuca Audubon Society meeting on Oct. 15. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Gregg Garfin, deputy director for science translation and outreach at the UA Institute of the Environment, will outline regional climate change issues and challenges, from strained water resources, to more tree-killing pests, to threats to agriculture, energy, and human health, during his 7 p.m. talk in Room 702 on the Sierra Vista campus of Cochise College.

Garfin’s presentation highlights findings presented in a new book, “Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States,” which details current and projected regional climate impacts and offers information that can help ensure the wellbeing of the region’s inhabitants in the decades to come.

This is a pretty generic letter. I’ve got stuff to do today. October 13:

Arizona and its neighbors in the Southwest aren’t alone in coming face to face with the troublesome facts of change. Everywhere on Earth, people are discovering that the bill for a century-long carbon binge is coming due. Scientists have important predictions for agriculturists — whether they’re monocropping factory farmers in the corn belt or peasants in the world’s poorest nations — and those predictions are unanimously anticipating that unpredictable and extreme weather is going to bring increasingly uncertain harvests. That translates into a humanitarian disaster just around the corner.

There’s may be arguments about the best ways to get ready for the impacts of an onrushing greenhouse effect — but we are absolutely certain to fail if we cannot accept the existence, causes, and harmful potentials of climate change. Corporations who fund climate-denying media figures and politicians are acting in the worst interests of our species, sacrificing the prosperity of our posterity for a few extra points of profit or a flash of fame on the boob tube. Denial is no longer an option.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 12: And So I Quit The Police Department

The Greensboro (NC) News-Record discusses local farming and climate change:

BURLINGTON — Small farmers are some of the most vulnerable people in the country to the effects of climate change, area leaders said Wednesday at a roundtable discussion organized by the American Sustainable Business Council.

“There’s so much about climate change that will affect North Carolina’s ability to function as a prosperous state,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat who served on the panel.

She said the state’s large agricultural sector combined with the vulnerability of being a coastal state make it a crucial issue — but one that the Republican-controlled legislature continues to pretend doesn’t exist.

“We can’t even really talk about climate change, which is unfortunate given the current scenario facing our state,” Harrison said.

The “it’s happening to farmers everywhere” letter is one I can do practically in my sleep by now. Sept. 5:

North Carolina’s farmers aren’t the only ones confronting planetary climate change. Agriculturists everywhere on Earth are anticipating a future of increasingly unpredictable weather, disrupted planting, hindered plant growth, and ever more uncertain harvests.

This slow-motion crisis makes a powerful case for diversity in our food systems. Monocrops are vulnerable to disease and pests (for a good example of the problems of relying on a single vulnerable staple, think of the Irish potato famine), and increase the likelihood of catastrophic failures from environmental disruptions.

There are many views about how to prepare for the multiple consequences of the accelerating greenhouse effect — but one thing is certain: the problem will never be successfully addressed by those who refuse to admit its existence, like the scientifically ignorant politicians in North Carolina’s halls of government. The time for denial is past; just like farmers, our politicians and media figures must acknowledge these new climatic realities.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 3: Headin’ For A Fall…

I wonder when Ownership is going to take notice. The Farm Journal:

Drought conditions have rapidly spread and worsened in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois over the past six weeks, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. But longer term, odds are that conditions will improve in the eastern half of the Corn Belt, while worsening again in the western half, experts say.

This week’s hot, dry weather helped late-planted corn and soybeans catch up, but lack of water could also prevent proper ear filling in non-irrigated corn.

Dug out an old one, filed off the serial numbers, and sent it on. August 29:

It’s harder and harder to reject the evidence for the slow-motion catastrophe of climate change. As Duke Ellington’s old song says, “Things ain’t what they used to be” — and there’s nobody in our society better equipped to recognize this than our nation’s farmers, now reeling from sustained droughts that are approaching Dust Bowl proportions.

But while more people are aware of the problem, much of our agricultural infrastructure is stuck in the past. With equipment and systems belonging to a period of conspicuous consumption, both farming and manufacturing sectors waste unimaginable quantities of water every day — and there’s nothing like a prolonged drought to remind us that it’s not a disposable commodity, but a precious resource.

While technological improvements are essential to properly husband our dwindling water supplies, the most important transformations must be in our collective behavior and attitudes. Climate change’s most important lesson may well be that the era of waste is ended.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 28: It’s A Rock! It Doesn’t Have Any Vulnerable Spots!

The Laramie Boomerang (WY) notes that the state’s farmers are looking trouble in the face, and not liking what they see:

Just like the weather, Gregor Goertz said, his Wheatland farm is changing.

“What I have seen personally is changes in weather: less predictable rains and snows,” the United States Department of Agriculture Wyoming Farm Service Agency executive director said. “That has really affected our farming operations.”

Goertz was one of several speakers at the “I Will Act on Climate Change” event Wednesday at the University of Wyoming ACRES Student Farm.

Speakers discussed the effects of climate change on Wyoming agriculture.

Goertz said the Farm Service Agency serves 11,000 production operations, which farm about 30 million acres throughout the state. Many of those operations are strained because of climate change, he said. But he began his conversation with a discussion of observations he’s made on his own farm.

“Out on the farm, we’re seeing more frequent hails,” Goertz said. “It used to be, when I was growing up, if we had a hailstorm once every ten years, we thought that was about normal. Now I’m experiencing that about every other year. So, we’ve had to change our operation to try to deal with that.”

Ranchers across Wyoming are dealing with droughts, Goertz said.

Here we go. August 2:

Wyoming isn’t alone in confronting the troublesome facts of planetary climate change. All over the globe, agriculturists — from factory farmers in the American corn belt to subsistence farmers in the world’s poorest nations — are looking towards a future in which extreme and unpredictable weather disrupts planting schedules, hinders plant growth, and makes for increasingly uncertain harvests.

The climate crisis underlines the crucial importance of diversity in our food systems. Monocropping leaves cultivators far more vulnerable to pests and disease (the Irish potato famine is a compelling demonstration of the dangers of relying too heavily on a single vulnerable staple food), creating the potential for catastrophic failures from environmental disruptions.

There are many differences of opinion about how to prepare for the greenhouse effect’s onrushing consequences — but can be no doubt that the problem will never be successfully addressed by those who refuse to admit its existence. The time for climate-change denial is past; just like Wyoming’s farmers, our politicians and media figures must adapt to these new environmental realities.

Warren Senders