Report sees problems for ag if climate change unabated

Staff Reporter

(July 1, 2014) Coastal Delmarva farmers could see more super storms and crop-killing flooding if global warming continues unchecked, a major bipartisan report released last week said.
A group of political and business leaders, including Michael R. Bloomberg and three U.S. Treasury secretaries stretching back to the Nixon administration, released the report Tuesday, June 24. It covered the nation region by region, warning that unabated climate change will likely lead to more dangerously hot days, widespread coastal destruction and dramatic changes to the agricultural world, primarily in the Southeast and Midwest.
“Sea level rise that had already occurred over the last century exacerbated the storm surge during Hurricane Sandy, expanding the reach of the storm-related flooding and making the storm more costly,” the report said in a section dedicated to the nation’s Northeast. “Our research shows that if we continue on our current path, additional projected sea level rise will likely increase average annual property losses from hurricanes and other coastal storms by $6 billion to $9 billion over the course of the century.”
That warming, the report said, could also lead to an increase in hurricane activity. Delmarva farmers were south of the eye of Hurricane Sandy when it made landfall in New Jersey in October 2012. But many farmers’ fields close to the Chesapeake Bay were inundated with saltwater. Crops also suffered rain and wind damage.
By 2100, the fairly temperate Mid-Atlantic climate could see the average temperature and the number of dangerously hot days to increase to the degree they have a negative impact on health, mortality and productivity. In the Southeast, which stands to be affected most, productivity issues would be deeply felt in a number of industries including agriculture.
Midwestern farmers would most likely see the most serious consequences, the report said, with states such as Missouri and Illinois experiencing up to a 15 percent average crop yield loss in the next five to 25 years and up to a 73 percent average yield loss by the end of the century.
“Armed with the right information, Midwest farmers can and will mitigate some of these impacts through double- and triple-cropping, seed modification, crop switching and other adaptive practices,” the report said. “In many cases, crop production will likely shift from the Midwest to the Upper Great Plains, Northwest and Canada, helping to keep the U.S. and global food system well supplied.”
The report, titled “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States,” suggests the American business community get involved in the climate change discussion, the country adopt greenhouse gas emission reductions and other policy efforts.
“Some of the climate impacts we analyzed are already being felt across the nation; indeed, some are already an unalterable part of our economic future,” the report said. “Rational business actors must adapt. The agricultural sector is on the front lines of climate adaptation. As Risk Committee member Greg Page has noted, ‘Farmers are innovators and consummate optimizers. … They persistently demonstrate the ability to adapt to changes in the environment and successfully adopt new technologies.’”