Climate disruptions to agriculture have increased. Many regions will experience declines in crop and livestock production from increased stress due to weeds, diseases, insect pests, and other climate change induced stresses.
The United States produces nearly $330 billion per year in agricultural commodities, with contributions from livestock accounting for roughly half of that value (Figure 6.1). Production of all commodities will be vulnerable to direct impacts (from changes in crop and livestock development and yield due to changing climate conditions and extreme weather events) and indirect impacts (through increasing pressures from pests and pathogens that will benefit from a changing climate). The agricultural sector continually adapts to climate change through changes in crop rotations, planting times, genetic selection, fertilizer management, pest management, water management, and shifts in areas of crop production. These have proven to be effective strategies to allow previous agricultural production to increase, as evidenced by the continued growth in production and efficiency across the United States.
Climate change poses a major challenge to U.S. agriculture because of the critical dependence of the agricultural system on climate and because of the complex role agriculture plays in rural and national social and economic systems (Figure 6.2). Climate change has the potential to both positively and negatively affect the location, timing, and productivity of crop, livestock, and fishery systems at local, national, and global scales. It will also alter the stability of food supplies and create new food security challenges for the United States as the world seeks to feed nine billion people by 2050. U.S. agriculture exists as part of the global economy and agricultural exports have outpaced imports as part of the overall balance of trade. However, climate change will affect the quantity of produce available for export and import as well as prices (Figure 6.3).
A very nicely done website though it is a shame so little has been done to make real world changes: National Climate Assessment. Not that educating the public isn’t important. It certainly is. But far too little is happening in the way of real and drastic changes.
From the page:
U.S. average temperature has increased by 1.3°F to 1.9°F since record keeping began in 1895; most of this increase has occurred since about 1970. The most recent decade was the nation’s warmest on record. Temperatures in the United States are expected to continue to rise. Because human-induced warming is superimposed on a naturally varying climate, the temperature rise has not been, and will not be, uniform or smooth across the country or over time.
Yesterday was Carl Sagan’s birthday. I really should have celebrated with a night of star gazing but I was exhausted from a full day and a full week so I stayed inside. It seems fitting though that sometime around 3 am I awoke with thoughts of Carl, the Universe and my place in it. As my mind often does at those early hours (If I’ve been asleep in bed but stir from slumber) I began mulling over a variety of thoughts. Perhaps that’s why long nights at the telescope with views of distant galaxies or Milky Way globular clusters and nebulae are often such an interesting exercise in quiet contemplation. In any case, I was awake and pondering some time outside under the stars. Laying next to Kaleesha I caressed her neck, her back and her hips enjoying the warm coziness of the moment and her sweet sighs as she stirred to my touch. After a little while I decided I would get an early start to the day with a view of the stars, planets and the sunrise.
I layered up with clothes and ventured outside with my iPad and quietly walked up the hill with Murphy at my side. There’s something entirely comfortable about walking up a woodland trail with the stars peeping through the breaks in the trees above and a big dog like Murphy keeping you company. The stars this morning were not a disappointment. They never are. The sky could not have been clearer and in this part of Missouri they are very dark. Orion took my breath away as it hovered in the southern sky. It is in moments such as this that I am overcome with a blissful mix of emotions and thoughts, feeling a joy of being connected to the Earth as I look up with an understanding that I am from the stars. That we, that all of this, is of a Universe which is bound together even as it is expanding further apart.
One of my thoughts this morning, in bed and now carried with me as I walked up the hill pertained to how it is that so much of our lives, in the America of 2013, are spent in pursuit of the next big thing and in particular, then next big shiny thing. Shiny things. It seems we modern humans, at least those of us who live in the “wealthy” nations, have become obsessed with trivial entertainments. From the Super Bowl to sitcoms to eating out to shopping, all the while dutifilly posting Facebook “Status” updates, we keep ourselves busy with our various forms of consumption and our “sharing” of it. How much of our mental and emotional energy is bound up in the aquisition of wealth and material objects. Bigger homes with nicer furnishings, name brand clothes covering overly cleaned and perfumed people driving new cars to jobs which may or may not be satisfying but which are required to maintain the lifestyle and the seeking of status that often comes with it. iPhones and iPads, texting while driving to the next afterschool sporting event, in the presence of others but rarely actually communicating with them.
This morning I think of Carl and his efforts to push humanity forward in its exploration of the Universe and it’s understanding of that Universe. I think of his warnings about our behaviour towards one another and towards the planet we share with not just other humans but with a great multitude of other species. I’ve spent most of my adult life concerned about problems such as climate change and have made a fairly consistent effort to communicate those concerns with others. I’ve made many of my life decisions based upon my understanding (limited though it is) of humanity’s effects on our planet and so this morning as I looked at our Milky Way neighbors I could not help but ponder Carl and what he sought to communicate.
If we humans are ever able to leave our planet for the purposes of living elsewhere it is a long way off. For the forseable future the Earth is our home and we are not doing a very good job of taking care of it. In this past year of looking up at the night sky I have, more than any other time of my life, come to appreciate the beatuy of the Universe. I have also developed a new-to-me understanding or perspective of our home planet in the context of the Universe. With each day the evidence grows that there are likely billions of planets in just our own Milky Way galaxy that might support life, planets that inhabit the “goldilocks” zone around their respective stars. There are billions of galaxies and, in light of these numbers, my doubt about life elsewhere in the Universe continues to shrink. And though we know that life on Earth has an expiration date based upon the life cycle of our sun I can’t help but wish that we humans might make the effort to live as though what we do matters. Perhaps our existence is meaningful because of this known expiration not in spite of it. Our species’ existence is likely to be ephemeral in the grand scheme of things but is that any reason to live without care?
Before the sun began to lighten the sky I pointed the telescope to the north, to Ursa Major and there I found the two galaxies, M81 and M82, collectively known as Bode’s Nebulae. The photons from these distant galaxies traveled for more than 12 million years before finding their way to my eyes. I spent a good long while looking at these two as they are fairly close and offer more detail than more distant galaxies. What life might exist there on the billions of planets that likely orbit billions of stars? Next I looked at Jupiter and then Mars, just a stone throw away by comparison. The sunlight reflected from these two planets traveled to us in just minutes. Current missions to Mars are looking for evidence of past life there. Jupiter’s moon Europa has an atmosphere which consists primarily of oxygen and a smooth icey surface which may well have liquid oceans beneath. Oceans that may support life. As the sun began to brighten the sky I aimed the telescope at the Orion Nebula for one last look.
After putting the scope away I stood for a few minutes on the soft layer of cedar mulch that covers the boulders that overlook the shut-ins of Tucker Creek. I spent a few minutes observing the rushing water and rich textures of the landscape. The trees of this south-facing hill are now nearly shed of all their leaves but are covered in thick layers of lichen. The rocks too are covered in patches of lichen and moss. Even in the chill of a fall morning life is abundant.
As I walked down the path, Murphy again at my side, I could not help but overflow with joy at the crunching of leaves underfoot and the gold light of our sun filtering through the mostly bare branches. There is something very enjoyable about acknowledging and being mindful of the sun not just as the sun but as OUR STAR. At the bottom of the hill our little homestead was stiring with the morning. Chickens, ducks and a goose were all awake and begining their business as were the goats. Soon I would sit in the warmth of the house and write at the kitchen table to the sounds of children pitterpattering above.
I’ve always been a big fan of getting at the truth of things no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable we may be getting there. It’s something I’ve insisted on and many times in my life it has caused me a good bit of trouble. That said, I don’t feel I have much choice in the matter. It’s the activist and the radical in me. It is, perhaps sad, that insisting on the truth might, today, be considered radical. I suppose when you look at the definition of “radical” it does speak to the search for truth. According to the New Oxford American dictionary, radical is: “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.”
In recent months my small town life got a bit rough in terms of some of my relationships. Specifically, those relationships which I’d developed with local conservatives. It was my intent to cross lines, to try to relate to my fellow humans as humans regardless of their political or cultural leanings. As a result, I’d gotten to be “friends” with quite a few folks that I tended not to agree with on many things. They knew and I knew those differences existed but we made a go of it. But eventually those differences presented themselves front and center and some of those friendships ended in turmoil.
What I am coming face to face with in rural Missouri is the hard truth that many rural residents are not comfortable with having their beliefs challenged, most notably their religious beliefs. Some are able to co-exist with science and accept the possibility that their belief in a higher power can be retained along with an acceptance of science. Others don’t seem able to bridge the gap but tend to remain neutral. Some are resistant to the point of hostility.
I have pondering for some time what seems to be an innate tension that exists between religion and science. This is a very real and very serious problem and manifests itself in important and basic elements of science education, namely the teaching of the Big Bang, evolution and climate science. Creationism and intelligent design (a version of creationism promoted by the Discovery Institute) are not, in any way, valid alternatives to evolution. Nor does the fundamentalist Christian community provide any kind of explanation or description of the origin of the universe and yet, they have established an influence in public education on this as well. While the U.S. has downgraded and simplified math and science education other countries are making great progress.
My intent here is to explicitly advocate for science literacy and reason. Evolution, the Big Bang, climate change are all areas of science that have been, to a great degree, settled. While there are many in this and other rural areas who do understand the importance of science as a method for understanding the world and as a basis of progress, there are many who do not. A part of the problem comes from the churches, from organized religion who are crossing lines in terms of social and political advocacy which cannot be tolerated. Another part of the problem is the confused and sloppy thinking that comes from religious belief. I would argue that religion, as it is based on faith, actually requires a level of rejection of reason and the scientific method. At the core, science is the search for truth while religion is advocacy of a belief in something that can never be shown to be true.
I’d like to explicitly support a few organizations that are doing important work that you can support and in some cases actually participate in via citizen science projects.
CosmoQuest is one of my favorites. From their website:
Our goal is to create a community of people bent on together advancing our understanding of the universe; a community of people who are participating in doing science, who can explain why what they do matters, and what questions they are helping to answer. We want to create a community, and here is where we invite all of you to be a part of what we’re doing.
There are lots of ways to get involved: You can contribute to science, take a class, join a conversation, or just help us spread the word by sharing about us on social media sites.
Like every community, we are constantly changing to reflect our members. This website will constantly be growing and adding new features. Overtime, we’re going to bring together all the components of a research learning environment (aka grad school), from content in the form of classes, resources, and a blog, to research in the form of citizen science, to social engagement through a forum, social media, and real world activities.
Another is the National Center for Science Education.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a not-for-profit, membership organization providing information and resources for schools, parents, and concerned citizens working to keep evolution and climate science in public school science education. We educate the press and public about the scientific and educational aspects of controversies surrounding the teaching of evolution and climate change, and supply needed information and advice to defend good science education at local, state, and national levels. Our 4500 members are scientists, teachers, clergy, and citizens with diverse religious and political affiliations.
Last but not least is The Planetary Society, co-founded by Carl Sagan and currently headed by Bill Nigh.
The Planetary Society sponsors projects that will seed innovative space technologies, nurture creative young minds, and be a vital advocate for our future in space.
Why we do it
Our Mission is to create a better future by exploring other worlds and understanding our own.
Current projects include:
- Fighting for funding in Congress
- Developing new technologies to deflect asteroids
- Hunting for Earth-like planets
- Searching for intelligent life in the Universe
- Creating a global network of EarthDials
- And flying our very own solar sail spacecraft, Lightsail-1.
The Zooniverse began with a single project, Galaxy Zoo , which was launched in July 2007. The Galaxy Zoo team had expected a fairly quiet life, but were overwhelmed and overawed by the response to the project. Once they’d recovered from their server buckling under the strain, they set about planning the future!
Galaxy Zoo was important because not only was it incredibly popular, but it produced many unique scientific results, ranging from individual, serendipitous discoveries to those using classifications that depend on the input of everyone who’s visited the site. This commitment to producing real research – so that you know that we’re not wasting your time – is at the heart of everything we do.
Real Science Online
The Zooniverse and the suite of projects it contains is produced, maintained and developed by the Citizen Science Alliance. The member institutions of the CSA work with many academic and other partners around the world to produce projects that use the efforts and ability of volunteers to help scientists and researchers deal with the flood of data that confronts them.
My favorite thus far is Planet Hunters which I have participating in. It’s very easy and exciting to know that I’m actually doing some of the preliminary work required to find planets around distant stars.
Of course there are others but these are the ones I wanted to mention today.
|A comparison of sea ice extent before the melting period began in
March 2012 and after the melting period ended in September 2012.
Purple line in these photos represents 1979-2000 median for
Arctic ice. Image Credit: NOAA
The NOAA recently released its 2012 Arctic Report. I can’t recall how many times I’ve gotten into a conversation with someone who, in the most blasé sort of way, always has this sort of thing to say: “Oh, the Earth will just get rid of us” or “Yes, it is terrible but the Earth will go on even if we don’t”. Fuck you. It’s not about the earth going on you dimwit. Of course, yes, it will go on in one way or another. Never mind the fact that more often than not these folks I’m referring to actually have children and possibly grand children… but there are these little details that they seem incapable of thinking about. It’s as though they just can’t be bothered… yes dear, it’ll all just come out in the wash. Well fuck you again.
From the post at Earth Sky:
At the end of each year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) releases a report card on the state of the Arctic. In 2012, NOAA reports record low levels of sea ice extent, lower than we’ve seen before since the satellite era began in 1979. Plus, in June 2012, the Arctic experienced record low snow extent across the region. Greenland saw extreme melting during the summer of 2012, and the warmer temperatures and decreasing ice provided massive phytoplankton to grow. NOAA scientists said that air temperatures were on a par with the (relatively high) temperatures of the last decade, leading to, among other things, an increase in the length of the growing season along with tundra greenness in the Arctic. Climate models suggest that, in a warming climate, high latitudes such as the Arctic will be affected first, and so it seems to be. The 2012 Arctic Report Card is a peer-reviewed report that consists of 141 authors from 15 countries. If you ask a scientist who travels periodically to the Arctic or across Greenland, he or she will tell you that the landscape there is changing dramatically from year to year.
|Arctic fox at Svalbard, Norway. In Fennoscandia,
fewer than 200 individuals are estimated to remain.
What’s being lost, due to our insistence on the casual use of cars and lawn mowers and over consumption and homes kept at 72, are actual SPECIES. Other species that we share the planet with that should exist. But WE just can’t be bothered to stop and consider how it is that WE are destroying this fragile planet that hosts such amazing diversity.
We, as a species, are nothing short of criminal.
About air conditioning:
In the late 1970s, 23 percent of American homes had some form of air conditioning; today, 87 percent do. We have become so addicted that 9 out of 10 new homes are built with central air. We spend $40 billion a year air-conditioning our buildings, says the EPA, and cooling our homes accounts for 17 percent of household energy use.
In return, we get — well, I’ll let author Stan Cox say it: “Air-conditioning buildings and cars in the U.S. has the climate impact of half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. That exceeds the total annual carbon dioxide emissions of any one of these nations: Australia, France, Brazil, or Indonesia.”
Wait, you mean the thing we use to get through the record heat is … helping to cause the record heat? I believe that is what the kids call ironic.
Petunia was given to me in May 2009 to raise after she was separated from her mother. She’s now 2 years old and has her own baby born around May 27th, 2011. Petunia is semi-wild, meaning that she still visits me, allows me to touch her, eats corn from my hand, and, if given the opportunity, will “clean” my arms and hands. She treats me as her mother and at certain times of the year will visit my cabin daily. Other times, usually fall and winter, I might not see her for a week or two at a time.
I don’t know yet if the baby is a buck or doe though I’m hoping it is a doe as that would mean Petunia would have a close companion all year. As it is now she hangs with the local deer but I don’t think she is a part of their group, probably do to her relationship to me. If the baby is a buck he’ll tend to keep more to himself once he has grown up as the bucks keep a bit of distance from the does. Time will tell. In any case the fawn seems healthy and wasn’t too afraid of me probably do to Petunia’s reaction to me which was not one indicating danger.
My guess is that I’ll be seeing them almost daily now that the fawn is past the first week. Petunia visits everyday and the fawn will visit with her. It was amazing to hear the adorable sounds of a nursing baby deer which I’d heard with Petunia when I was bottle feeding her. I forgot just how sweet that sound is. Yes, it is the simple sound of a baby fawn nursing that makes my whole day.
P.S. Where the hell has the month of June gone? This is the third year in a row that we’ve had a strange spring to be followed by a June that is much more like August. 94-96 degrees??? The forcast for the next 6 days? Above 90 every day. Ugh. While I realize one cannot just look at a day or a month and say, “Ha! Climate change is real and it is upon us!”, we’ve had one record hot year after another. Record numbers of wild fires, record drought, record tornadoes, record hurricanes. Yeah, welcome to human caused climate change.
Irregular Times has a great post regarding the climate data from the NASA Goddard Institute. For those that like to pick one winter and pretend that it voids reality because it snowed and was cold, well, they’re wrong. Frankly it is pathetic that so many are so cowardly that they will do anything to continue living a life of convenience rather than step up and deal with this crisis. Yes, it is cowardly.
The Goddard temperature data speak:
5 Coolest Januaries on record: 1893, 1887, 1885, 1909, 1895
5 Warmest Januaries on record: 2007, 2002, 2010, 2005, 2003
5 Coolest Februaries on record: 1893, 1887, 1905, 1891, 1917
5 Warmest Februaries on record: 1998, 2010, 2002, 1995, 2004
5 Coolest Marches on record: 1911, 1917, 1888, 1898, 1908
5 Warmest Marches on record: 2002, 2010, 2005, 2008, 1990
5 Coolest Aprils on record: 1911, 1907, 1909, 1918, 1892
5 Warmest Aprils on record: 2010, 2007, 2005, 2002, 1998
5 Coolest Mays on record: 1917, 1890, 1907, 1918, 1909
5 Warmest Mays on record: 1998, 2007, 2009, 2002, 2005
5 Coolest Junes on record: 1913, 1907, 1903, 1894, 1885
5 Warmest Junes on record: 1998, 2009, 2005, 2006, 2007
5 Coolest Julys on record: 1912, 1907, 1909, 1904, 1890
5 Warmest Julys on record: 1998, 2009, 2002, 2005, 2008
5 Coolest Augusts on record: 1912, 1907, 1903, 1918, 1890
5 Warmest Augusts on record: 1998, 2003, 2006, 2005, 2009
5 Coolest Septembers on record: 1912, 1903, 1890, 1904, 1964
5 Warmest Septembers on record: 2005, 2009, 2003, 2006, 2008
5 Coolest Octobers on record: 1912, 1887, 1903, 1917, 1882
5 Warmest Octobers on record: 2005, 2003, 2009, 2006, 2004
5 Coolest Novembers on record: 1890, 1919, 1892, 1907, 1910
5 Warmest Novembers on record: 2009, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006
5 Coolest Decembers on record: 1917, 1916, 1882, 1910, 1892
5 Warmest Decembers on record: 2006, 2003, 2005, 2009, 1997
By Season(temperatures still measured globally; season labels refer to Northern Hemisphere seasons)
5 Coolest Winters on record: 1892-1893, 1917-1918, 1916-1917, 1910-1911, 1886-1887
5 Warmest Winters on record: 2006-2007, 2009-2010, 2001-2002, 2003-2004, 1997-1998
5 Coolest Springs on record: 1917, 1911, 1909, 1918, 1890
5 Warmest Springs on record: 2002, 2005, 2007, 1998, 2008
5 Coolest Summers on record: 1907, 1912, 1903, 1890, 1904
5 Warmest Summers on record: 1998, 2009, 2005, 2007, 2006
5 Coolest Autumns on record: 1912, 1903, 1809, 1884, 1910
5 Warmest Autumns on record: 2005, 2009, 2003, 2006, 2004
5 Coolest Years on record: 1917, 1907, 1890, 1887, 1909
5 Warmest Years on record: 2005, 2007, 2009, 2002, 1998
(Source: NASA Goddard Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index, accessed May 16 2010. The pattern in land-only temperature datavaries only slightly from the land and ocean data, bearing out the same general pattern.)
We’ve had some pretty cold weather since my last update on the wood stove and thermal mass. I’m happy to report that the thermal mass has continued to make a huge difference in the moderation of indoor temperatures. In the past week we’ve had several days in a row with overnight lows at or below 10 and highs of 20 or less. Inside the cabin I’ve been waking up to 52 or warmer with a daytime average of about 75 inside once the morning fire is going. In these frigid first days of January I’ve burned an average of 7 logs in the morning and 7 in the evening. Last winter without the blocks I would have woken up to 38 degrees or so on mornings this cold even if I kept a hot fire going till 1 in the morning! While 52 is chilly it’s quite a difference from 38 and remember I’m only burning half the wood which means much less work for me and much less carbon in the atmosphere.
Here are some stats from December: Morning average 28 outside, 59 inside. Evening average 34 outside, 66 inside. Noon inside average 72. Overall outside average 31, inside average 65.7. That inside average is a bit misleading as it is based on a morning temp with no fire. I get the morning fire going as soon as I get up so the temp quickly rises so in terms of the time that I’m actually awake and doing things in the cabin the average is more like 75. On average the cabin is staying at least 32 degrees warmer that outside.
One last observation. New Years day I went to a community hike and potluck and observed during the drive over that most of the houses that had chimneys were spewing pretty heavy amounts of smoke. I’m happy to report that even with my old wood stove I’m only getting visible smoke during the start-up of my fires. Within just a few minutes that smoke is replaced by nearly invisible smoke/vapor and heat waves. I doubt it is as clean burning as the newer double burn stoves but even those will burn dirty if not burned properly with well seasoned wood.
Cabin, Carbon, Climate Change, Conservation, Energy, Energy Conservation, Global Warming, Homesteading, Living Simply, Natural Resources, Permaculture, Self Reliance, Wood, Woodburning Stove
I’d planned on writing about the recent climate change talks but Asymptotic Life has a great post on the Copenhagen Aftermath to get it started. I may add more later.
The leader of the G-77 group of developing nations said, “It is asking Africa to sign a suicide pact, an incineration pact in order to maintain the economic dependence of a few countries.”
A Greenpeace press release warned that President Obama “now risks being branded as the man who killed Copenhagen.”
Yet Amanda Little, in an unexpected post at Treehugger, excuses Obama by noting that “Fully 55 percent of Americans surveyed in a recent Washington Post-ABC poll disagree with the way Obama is handling the climate issue, concerned that he is moving too far too fast.”
Personally, I believe that’s because corporate intervention has prevented appropriate education– and the realization that if we burn less energy, we’ll spend less money! But the powers that be don’t want us to burn less energy: the more we waste, the more money they make.
And again here, rightfully suggesting that since the government can’t be counted on it is up to people to do it themselves:
The Copenhagen climate summit has ended. The result: a non-binding agreement that we ought to do something about CO2 emissions, but with no commitments as to who will do what. There’s also a generalized statement– again, nonbinding– that there will be a fund to provide up to $100 billion per year to developing nations that must cope with climate change, with no indication of who’s going to ante up.
In short, the summit was a failure. Some argue that getting nations to agree on anything is itself a success. But the fact is, two nations blocked this process: the United States and China. These just happen to be the world’s biggest carbon polluters– and two of the nations least likely to be affected by early climate changes. Coincidence? I think not.
In essence, my country and its new ally China have thumbed their noses at the world. We Americans have said that we don’t care what the cost is to others, we insist on maintaining our current levels of decadence and waste. And no one can stop us: we are the most powerful nation in the world (and China is probably second).
I am yet hopeful that the other industrialized nations will reduce their emissions, despite our refusal to do so. They will be at a significant economic disadvantage, since the U.S. will continue to plunge ahead without the added expense of paying for the cost of its carbon. We may regain hegemony as a result.
I am yet hopeful that the citizens of the United States will defy their leaders and demand change– the change that then-candidate Barack Obama promised, but has yet to materialize. I am yet hopeful that each of us will cut our own emissions to the extent we can, and elect legislators and executives who will give us the resources to cut further.
It’s too late to eliminate all effects of climate change. People will die because of our inaction. The best we can do is to act now to stop climate change from becoming worse than the present and future effects we’ve already caused.
The Bible (it’s Sunday– you knew I’d bring it back to the Bible) teaches us that we are responsible for the failures of our government. We will pay the price for the inaction of President Obama, and President Bush before him.
Will we stand by as our leaders heap guilt on us? Or will we stand up and demand what should have been done already? Sadly, I think we’ll probably let Obama lead us down the road to Hell.