Last week the USDA released a new report on climate change and agriculture in the United States.

USDA report

Combining professional input and scientific research from the government, universities, non-governmental organizations, industry, and private sectors, this peer-reviewed study provides an extensive overview of the climate change effects on U.S. agricultural production, suggesting that while farmers and ranchers have a long history of successful adaptation to climate variability, the accelerating pace and intensity of projected climate change effects over the next century requires major adjustments—simply put, we need to take action to moderate those effects in the United States, and worldwide.

This report is interesting as it addresses the need for adaptation and includes a healthy dose of sustainable agriculture practices as recommendations. What will conventional ag producers in the Heartland states think of such recommendations?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this new report from the USDA.

Seriously. I guess the point is- whether you think the climate change is solely a product of nature, or whether you think humans are also interfering with natural processes – practical people know that one way or another, they gotta deal with it.

I’m all in favor of that. From E&E News (subscription only, sorry):

POLICY: Skeptics and climate change scientists unite on adaptation (03/26/2009)
Lauren Morello, E&E reporter

Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton is an outspoken climate change skeptic, but he wielded the rhetoric of a believer yesterday when he called for governments to help people adapt to shifting weather patterns.

“Adaptation is practical, affordable and an utterly natural reflex response,” the former Energy and Commerce Committee chairman told House lawmakers yesterday. “The longer we put off adaptation, the more difficult and expensive it will be.”

Still, Barton said he doesn’t believe in man-made global warming — he thinks natural cycles rule the Earth’s climate. Yet his wasn’t the only skeptical voice endorsing adaptation policy at a hearing of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee. The unlikely support for adaptation came couched in opposition to a cap-and-trade system or other policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“Adaptation is a practical, affordable natural response to natural climate change,” said Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, who was an adviser to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, minutes after telling lawmakers that global warming is a “non-problem.”

The British politician and journalist has a long track record of opposing mainstream climate science. In 2007, he challenged former Vice President Al Gore to an internationally televised debate on climate change. He has also produced a documentary refuting Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” entitled “Apocalypse? NO!”

Meanwhile, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said he’s not sure how quickly the Earth’s climate is changing or whether humans are playing a role. But he endorsed adaptation, as well, yesterday. “Preparing for the effects of climate change would be far less expensive than a carbon cap,” he said.

And Calvin Beisner, a Presbyterian minister who heads the Cornwall Alliance, a group of evangelical Christian climate skeptics, said he also believes that adaptation policies “win hands-down” compared to efforts to mitigate climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

But Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said adaptation must go hand in hand with mitigation. “Adaptation alone cannot solve climate change,” he said.

Adaptation policies beginning to resonate with governments

Tom Karl, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., agreed, saying the need for a twin-policy approach is borne out by recent temperature trends.

“Thirteen of the last 14 years have been the warmest on record,” Karl said. And those aren’t the only ongoing shifts in Earth’s climate that have been tied to human activities, he said, listing changes in water temperatures, sea level, sea ice, fresh water supplies, and the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like hurricanes and heavy rainfall.

“These changes are likely to increase and threaten to profoundly impact the physical and biological environment, economic prosperity, human health and national security,” he told lawmakers.

Adding to the urgency: a recent study by NOAA scientists that found climate change will persist for 1,000 years after greenhouse gas emissions cease, a finding Karl cited in his written testimony. Slashing emissions is “vital,” the scientist said, but society will have to grapple with some amount of climate change, no matter what.

That a message is beginning to resonate with governments at all levels, which are responding with adaptation policies, said John Stephenson, director of natural resources and environment at the Government Accountability Office.

California is developing a statewide adaptation policy, while Maryland issued a plan in August that examines its coasts’ vulnerability to climate-driven sea-level rise. At the federal level, the Interior Department has identified ways land managers can incorporate adaptation concerns into their regular planning.

Will the price of inaction be greater?

“It may be costly to raise river or coastal dikes to protect communities and resources from sea level rise, build higher bridges, or improve storm water systems,” Stephenson said. “But there is a growing recognition in the United States and elsewhere that the cost of inaction will be greater.”

Earlier this month, for example, the National Academy of Sciences released a report that warned that the Earth’s “climate is no longer stable,” and governments should expect surprises as they work to minimize global warming’s effects on day-to-day life (Greenwire, March 12).

Karl, the NOAA scientist, said his agency already provides information that can inform adaptation policy, including drought, fire and hurricane forecasts and analyses of long-term precipitation trends.

But as governments turn their attention to adaptation, NOAA believes there is a “clear need for new tools and services to insure adaptation is effective,” he said, including more reliable models of climate change at the regional or local level.

Larry Schweiger, the president of the National Wildlife Federation, said he believes the choice to adapt is simple.

“Today’s hearing is essentially about whether Congress will ensure our children and grandchildren are not left with a world fundamentally different than the one we have enjoyed,” he said. “Are you ready to talk about a world that no longer has polar bears? Vast sagebrush steppe and free-roaming antelope? Ice-fishing and deep snows in the winter? Cold-water rivers teeming with salmon and trout?”

Hi all. As blog readership grows in numbers and diversity of interests, we are going to try something new – segmenting the content into more reader-friendly units. Reading the blog should be as convenient as possible.

Check out the categories to the left. They have been silently growing. From reader responses so far, this approach is working well. Some just want to read the live blogging, others prefer news updates, etc. This new category, Research Notes, will hopefully connect with the climate and energy junkies who like to stay on top of the more detailed research and reports.

As always, if you find material that you think the CEP blog should be covering, please just leave a link in the comments or email me – “hazlett at climateandenergy dot org”

On to the research.

WIND. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has just released a “Wind Energy Siting Handbook.” That link will lead you to a page where you can electronically sign the terms of use, then either download the material and/or peruse it online. If you have any questions at all about the environmental impacts of wind project siting (including how you can carry out due diligence, engage in mitigation, work with the public’s concerns, etc.) READ THIS HANDBOOK. It is aimed primarily at commercial scale wind developers, but is also helpful for folks working with those developers.

Also from AWEA, a new reliability fact sheet about wind power and the grid (.pdf, 96 KB). Helpful in sorting out the myths and legends about wind, intermittent power, and baseload. These issues have of course come up again since the recent power failure in Texas that was originally blamed on the wind not blowing – however, it turns out that the problem was caused by an as yet unnamed baseload operator who did not respond with promised dispatchable power. The incident is now under investigation by ERCOT, the TX grid folks. We cited this a few days ago but the link is here (Houston Chronicle) for folks who haven’t seen it yet.

Also, the KCC has recently updated its web page for wind resources, especially in terms of land leasing, easement & siting information.

STATE POLICY. Pew Climate has two neat-o new .pdfs – one on adapting to climate change, the other on how cap-and-trade works.

— Maril Hazlett, www.climateandenergy.org

blog harvest

January 8, 2008

Just checking out a few climate, energy, ag, and military blogs… over at Agricultural Observatory, they posted an article about how the pending farm bill has big energy implications for farmers. Mostly in terms of biomass. Along those lines, anyone interested in biofuels and policy issues should be reading Nathaniel Green’s Switchboard blog over at NRDC.

Climate Progress has a thought-provoking entry on a recent Univ of Maryland study, which looks at the high economic costs of doing nothing about climate change. If you are interested in climate change adaptation at all (and folks involved in emergency response, etc., this probably means you) follow the link the to study, read the executive summary, and also download the regional summary for the Great Plains (or the Midwest. Like so many maps of these regions, KS flip-flops between the two. For heaven’s sake. I don’t think that particular category is an either/or choice, myself. But bless their hearts the study was done in Maryland.)

And if any of those researchers should happen to find this link :) no, I am actually not a geographical bigot. I just think few people really get Kansas. At times that even includes Kansans, though, so no hard feelings.

Onward with the blog harvest. Sustainablog covers what seems to be a super-cool article about solar in this January’s Scientific American. Quotable: “The magazine proposes a massive, far-reaching plan to get solar power generating 69 percent of America’s electricity 35 percent of our total energy by 2050, thus replacing all of our foreign oil needs and slashing global warming emissions.” If you want to know more about the PV and CSP solar technologies mentioned, see CEP’s solar page.

For folks interested in the nuts and bolts of how to use renewable energies in their homes and daily lives, Mother Earth News covers the best renewable energy books.

And this time none of my milblogs yielded anything about renewables. But sometimes they do.

— Maril Hazlett

Want to know about climate and energy issues in the Midwest (or hey, the Great Plains)? Check out www.climateandenergy.org