The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Midwestern Farming Is in Danger From Climate Change
By Dan Nosowitz
From cranberry bogs in New England to citrus groves in California, soybeans in the plains states and cotton in Texas, few facts hold true about American agriculture across the board. A new study from Cornell University indicates that even climate change may not affect all regions equally.
The study was designed to learn about regional climate sensitivity—exactly how much and in what ways climate changes can impact distinct areas of the country—by examining climate data from 1960 until 2004. Climate change may not have been a hot topic in 1960, but climate changes were certainly happening.
To figure all this out, the researchers relied on total factor productivity or TFP, which is a fairly common economic indicator. In an agricultural context, TFP is a helpful macro indicator; it's basically a measure of output per input, and so tracking that number over time gives you a sense of technological growth. It's not a measure of something simple like, say, crop yield; it's more like a way to measure efficiency. That's useful in this context, because it ends up showing the overall health of an entire sector.
Anyway! What the researchers found is that increases in summer temperature, which have been increasingly common and are commonly associated with climate change, would significantly and negatively affect crops in the Midwest. The primary reason, according to the study, is the reliance of the Midwest on non-irrigated crops, especially cereals like corn and wheat. These are the dominant crops through throughout the central U.S., and without the extensive irrigation seen in, say, California, Midwestern farmers are much less able to cope with heat waves and droughts.
The study even questions the policy choices that led us to this point, specifically mentioning ethanol mandates and the way agribusiness encourages commodity crops. "Whether these policies played a decisive role in inducing the observed regional specialization that promoted that region's increased vulnerability to climatic extremes remains unknown but an intriguingly plausible hypothesis," wrote the study's authors.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Elliott Negin
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' recent decision to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to scientists who developed rechargeable lithium-ion batteries reminded the world just how transformative they have been. Without them, we wouldn't have smartphones or electric cars. But it's their potential to store electricity generated by the sun and the wind at their peak that promises to be even more revolutionary, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and protecting the planet from the worst consequences of climate change.
The global population of the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros has increased to 72 after four new calves were spotted in the past several months.
Are tigers extinct in Laos?
That's the conclusion of a detailed new study that found no evidence wild tigers still exist in the country.
Methane emissions are a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – about 28 times more powerful. And they have been rising steadily since 2007. Now, a new study has pinpointed the African tropics as a hot spot responsible for one-third of the global methane surge, as Newsweek reported.