Can You Change Climate Change?
By the end of this century – within our children’s lifetime – the town we call home is expected to experience an average rise in temperatures of 5 to 7 degrees. You can find out how much warming is expected where you live here.
The map above projects change in Annual Temperature by the 2080s using the model “Ensemble Average, SRES emission scenario: A2.” This map shows the temperature change projected by the middle model. That is, half of the models project a greater amount of change, and half of the models project less change as compared to the 1961-1990 baseline average. Click here for an interactive verision of this map.
New research indicates that warming is already causing the cycle of evaporation and rainfall over the ocean to intensify twice as fast as previously thought. If the trend holds up, the faster paced cycle of evaporation and rain is likely to contribute to more droughts and floods.
Separate research found that a moderate increase in temperatures will double the volatility of corn prices over the next 30 years. Increased heat waves and decreased yields are the primary anticipated culprits.
The research also suggests corn production may move north into Canada as a result.
Agriculture is especially sensitive to changes in temperature, rainfall, and severe weather. But other parts of our community will be affected as well.
Infrastructure in small towns such as bridges, storm water systems, and the electrical grid will be tested by changing temperature and rainfall patterns. Many larger cities have already begun planning how they will deal with an increase in severe weather.
There is near universal agreement among researchers that human activity is driving these trends. In four reports over 20 years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that global warming is occurring and that human activity is the likely cause.
Until recently, the concern over global warming was bipartisan. In 2010, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and John Kerry (D-MA) worked together on comprehensive legislation to address the human causes of global warming.
As Governor of Minnesota, Republican Tim Pawlenty worked with Democratic governors to get the Midwest Governors Association to endorse a regional greenhouse gas reduction agreement. More recently, military and national security leaders have stepped to the forefront to call for action.
Our belief that we have a moral obligation to leave the earth to the next generation at least as well as we found it compels us to action. Failing to take action would deny future generations the opportunity to flourish in rural and agricultural communities.
If we act now, we can avert the most damaging impacts of climate change. Here are some strategies we invite you to pursue with us.
Renewing our Electrical System
The way we produce electricity is at a crossroads. Wind energy is becoming cost competitive with conventional sources of power. And wind energy is good for our communities too.
For example, in Nebraska, citizens face a decision over the future of the power system. An aging fleet of coal-fired plants needs $1.5 billion in upgrades to reduce their emissions and keep running. Or we could pursue a strategy of investing in wind energy instead.
Wind is abundant in Nebraska and the Great Plains. It is a clean source of energy. The cost is dropping as technology improves, while the cost of coal, oil, and natural gas will continue to increase.
As the only all public power state, Nebraska citizens have a say in the outcome. A recent poll commissioned by the Center for Rural Affairs found overwhelming support for increased wind energy.
In Iowa, they chose wind energy. The state now generates 20 percent of its power from wind. With modest upgrades to the transmission system, Iowa is on course to reach 30 percent or greater wind energy, with a possibility for export.
Wind energy also provides jobs in rural communities, along with payments to local farmers and opportunity for local investment in projects.
With a robust electrical grid, analysis shows that wind and solar can provide 40 percent of our national power. Transmission upgrades will enable power to move around from one area to another, depending on where the wind is blowing.
While the wind does not blow reliably at any one location, it does blow reliably across a region. Thus, tying the grid together helps provide electricity when we need it without duplicative backup power generation capacity.
So-called “smart-grid” technology will also increase wind energy on the grid. With smart-grid technology, you can save money on your home energy bill by heating water, cooling your freezer, or charging appliances when the wind is blowing the hardest.
Investing in energy efficiency also delivers multiple benefits. Measures that make your home or business more energy efficient will save you money on your monthly utility bill.
In turn, you will help reduce the total amount of electricity we need to generate. The cheapest and cleanest electricity is electricity saved through energy efficiency improvements.
Choosing to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy instead of coal makes sense for our communities and our local economy. It also is one of the main things we can do to help slow global warming. It is a win-win for rural communities.
Reduce Agriculture’s Contribution to Climate Change
There are also opportunities to change agricultural practices and policy to reduce emissions, increase greenhouse gas sequestration, and improve the resilience of our farming systems.
Research suggests we can substantially influence the amount of carbon captured in our farming systems by management of agricultural crops, livestock, and soil. Programs could pay farmers to capture carbon and other greenhouse gasses in the soil.
Current agricultural recommendations to reduce global warming often focus on no-till farming, grassland management, and capturing methane at livestock operations.
However, a forthcoming paper from the Center for Rural Affairs will show a more diverse set of approaches that can contribute to capturing and reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, most of the enhanced practices also allow farm and ranch land to better withstand effects of global warming. Carbon sequestration in soil provides numerous other benefits, including improved soil, air, and water quality and increased biological diversity.
Perhaps the most important effect is the increased ability of agricultural systems to continue to produce food for human use.
Similar to the adoption of renewable energy, these changes are win-win for rural communities.
Will You Get Involved?
These strategies are part of a larger set of solutions to mitigate climate change.
There are opportunities for you to get involved in these and other efforts to address global warming in your community, your state, and at the national level.
Shifting the dialogue in our communities is a critical first step toward larger action to address global warming. You can help by talking with your friends and neighbors about the challenges you see with a shifting climate, and how you see solutions helping your community.
Another opportunity is for you to join with us as we build a group of local rural leaders who are concerned about climate change.
The actions we take now to address climate change will strengthen our communities, while preserving our natural resources and our way of life for future generations.
Contact me with comments and questions – Brian Depew, firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.687.2100.
- Posted on 5.5.2012
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