Wednesday, October 29, 2008

California agriculture and climate change

Thanks to Chris at Aquafornia, I was pointed to a very interesting article in the Daily Democrat, Woodland, CA. It is one of the few recent articles that goes beyond the conventional wisdom on these issues.
How will climate change affect Yolo County's agriculture? There is much in the news these days about the potential effects of higher temperatures, rising sea level, and drought in the Western United States, but translating these global trends into local projections for agriculture is not an easy task.
That is not an easy topic to understand, let alone explain to an audience that may not be accustomed to hearing it. Writer Louise Jackson gets to the meat of the matter fairly quickly. Click Read more! to get my view.

To begin with, Jackson does not spend any time on the "what is the real cause" question.
It is generally recognized that much of the climate change that will occur during the next two to three decades is based on greenhouse gasses that have already been emitted by human activities such as use of fossil fuels and fertilizers.
Now all of the urban greens may think of cars and driving and heating our homes, but Jackson makes a very key point by adding the word fertilizers to the list. Not only do fertilizers contribute directly to global warming, nitrogen is normally delivered in the form of urea, manufactured from natural gas. It is a double hit, because natural gas is being touted as the alternative for oil in powering our transportation system.

After going through a list of the various probable crop changes that will be required by a warming climate, Jackson gets to the effect of changes in precipitation.
In the future, more Sierran precipitation will arrive as rainfall, and snowmelt will come earlier in Spring. Due to Yolo County's location, it is expected to be less vulnerable to water shortages than agricultural locations further south in California that are dependent on deliveries of water from the Delta pumping stations.

But the reduced Sierra snowpack will increase flooding along the Sacramento River, presenting economic and ecological tradeoffs for ecosystem restoration vs. farming
For me, this all says that Greens had better become more involved in the issues over the food we eat" how and where it is grown, delivered and prepared.

I have long believed that these changes will dominate politics in this state for a long time to come and a Green Party that is not engaged will not be around long. I have also stated that the battles which mean the most to California's future are not going to be fought in the coastal cities, but rather in the Central Valley.

As Green work through a strategy for 2010 and beyond, there must be a focus on doing more where the need is greatest.

No comments: