Back in the movie/musical “Oklahoma”, we got a musical lesson that the farmer and the cowman should be friends. They seem to have bridged that divide rather well in the intervening decades, but today the question remains whether the farmers and ranchers and the climate should be friends.
Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples certainly doesn’t think so. On his Twitter account last week, he asked “How could anybody involved in agriculture think the proposed Cap &Trade legislation is good for Texas?”
Well, we’ll tell you. It’s a combination of solving the climate crisis which will disproportionately hurt agriculture in Texas, not using faulty studies cooked up for partisan purposes (which Staples does) and about the jobs and savings to everyday Texas families, which helps everyone whether you’re a farmer or not.
First, no other industry is so exposed as agriculture to the impacts of climate change. Agriculture is almost completely dependent on relatively stable patterns of rainfall and temperature to get a good yield. Climate change threatens not only how much rainfall we get, but also how we get it. Predictions are that some areas may actually see more rain, but in fits and starts with large storms that flood and then wash away topsoil rather than absorb moisture.
Texas is still in the midst of one of the worst droughts in its history. Australian scientists have linked 37% of this drought to anthropogenic climate change. Recent drought has brought record breaking agricultural losses to Texas both this last year in 2009 and in 2006, when billions of dollars in crops were lost and cattle had to be culled in mass numbers because feed and water was too expensive and they were dying in the field from the heat. Some are even asking if this prolonged drought is actually just the beginning of “the new normal,” a frightening prospect for anyone with a farm or ranch in West, Central, or South Texas where drought has been the most extreme.
The USDA’s study of impacts of climate change on agriculture, as part of the consensus opinion of 13 federal agencies, is that Texas stands to lose up to 35% of its agricultural yield from just 2 degrees of warming. And that’s not all — check out this press release from the USDA:
The report finds that climate change is already affecting U.S. water resources, agriculture, land resources, and biodiversity, and will continue to do so. Specific findings include: (more…)