Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Climate Change Sensationalism Minus Fact Checking From the Washington Post Opinion Page


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A few days ago, a Maryland climate change activist, Mike Tidwell, had an opinion piece in the Washington Post, in which he announced to the world that he is refocusing from reducing his carbon footprint to preparing to defend his loved ones for that future time when the hoards come trying to break into his house to steal the lettuce and tomatoes which he is starting to grow in his basement via a "starter kit." In effort to fend them off he has barred his basement windows and is taking firearm lessons.

The reason? According to Tidwell, this...
Now scientists at the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say the planet could warm another five degrees by the end of this century. If that happens, Iowa is done for. Corn and wheat will wither and die on a scale never before seen. That's because heat-triggered mega-droughts will intensify across much of America's "continental interior" regions, scientists say, as flooding increases elsewhere.

Iowa and much of the Heartland will resemble a scrub desert. How will we feed ourselves adequately if our breadbasket is a desert? Answer: We won't, and there will be social unrest as a result. How much is anyone's guess, but people don't sit still when food gets scarce. Indeed, when the options are extreme hunger or pillaging the neighboring village, history tends to favor pillaging.
Huh? Did I miss something?

For the last fifty years, records show that Iowa is becoming wetter. According to Bruce Babcock, Iowa agricultural economist, productive cropland in the Midwest has expanded over the past 25 years as the region has become warmer and wetter.

According to Christopher Anderson, assistant director of the Climate Science Program at Iowa State University, Iowa has been getting wetter since 1890.
A clear trend in the United States is the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation in the Northeastern and Central states. How is the agricultural industry adapting to these trends? Seed genetics, implement design, planting and harvesting schedules, and more, are being modified to withstand higher precipitation. Anderson ... walked the audience through data showing wetter years, wetter months, and wetter days since 1890.

He also discussed that the implications of more frequent, higher amounts of rainfall mean wetter soils. This leads to warmer nights, cooler days, higher humidity and more rainfall. The long-term impact all of this has on the farming community is crucial. Farm management will need to adapt. “Grandchildren will run the farm very differently than it is being run today,” says Anderson. “The farms will still be there, but may look very different.”
By no means am I a climate change denier, nor do I wish to downplay global warming's effects upon agricultural production. But, let's not discredit ourselves by publishing wrong information in major newspapers to scare people, OK? If there's some new information out there stating Iowa will soon become a scrub desert, meaning the Gulf moisture patterns will be changing, please inform me because I missed it, Mr. Tidwell.

Furthermore, it is what man has done, by draining Iowa's vast spongy wetlands so that it could be farmed, that will contribute to its increased vulnerability to flooding farm losses of tomorrow.

If you'd like a list of references regarding global warming's effects upon agriculture, I've been keeping one here.
Kay McDonald

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