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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Agricultural Adaptation in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has examined the potential impacts of both climate change and adaptation on the U.S. agricultural sector. Uncertainty in future climate leads to uncertainty in impacts, with net returns to crop farmers ranging from a gain of $3.6 billion to a loss of $1.5 billion per year. Pests may reduce these returns by an additional $1.5 billion to $3.0 billion. Adaptation efforts can offset some of these losses, but those adaptation efforts generate adverse environmental externalities.

Global climate models predict increases over time in average temperature worldwide, with signifi cant impacts on local patterns of temperature and precipitation. The extent to which such changes present a risk to food supplies, farmer livelihoods, and rural communities depends in part on the direction, magnitude, and rate of such changes, but equally importantly on the ability of the agricultural sector to adapt to changing patterns of yield and productivity, production cost, and resource availability. Study findings suggest that, while impacts are highly sensitive to uncertain climate projections, farmers have considerable fl exibility to adapt to changes in local weather, resource conditions, and price signals by adjusting crops, rotations, and production practices. Such adaptation, using existing crop production technologies, can partially mitigate the impacts of climate change on national agricultural markets. Adaptive redistribution of production, however, may have significant implications for both regional land use and environmental quality.

Climate Risk in the UK

A new report from the Adaptation Sub-Committee for the UK's Committee on Climate Change has generated estimates of the exposure of housing to flooding in coming years, largely due to ongoing development in floodplains. The report notes that development in such at-risk areas has outpaced development in less vulnerable locations. Despite emerging efforts toward adaptive flood protection, the pace of adaptation is unlikely to keep pace with development resulting in growing vulnerability.

The punchline: "Climate change could increase the number of properties in England with a significant chance of flooding2 from rivers or the sea: from 330,000 now to between 630,000 and 1.2 million by the 2080s, according to the climate change scenarios used in the CCRA. The annual expected costs of flooding could increase from £1 billion now to between £1.8 billion and £5.6 billion (present day prices) over the same time period. These estimates assume no further action to prepare, no population growth and no change in the property stock."

The report also takes a look at water scarcity, finding traditional demand management measures such as reduced household consumption and addressing leakage will not be able to offset the projected supply deficit for 2050.

Climate Change in Tennessee

Interested in a discussion of climate change in the state of Tennessee? Well, yesterday I joined a panel for WUOT's 'Dialogue' in which we spent an hour discussing the science, economics, and communication challenges of climate change in the Volunteer State.

Dialogue: Climate Change in Tennessee

In Tennessee, it can be hard to relate to stories about climate change. After all, there are no glaciers to recede, no polar caps to melt, and no coastlines threatened by rising sea levels. So what are the signs of climate change in the Volunteer State? Three panelists join WUOT's Brandon Hollingsworth for an examination of climate research in Tennessee, and the possible effects of climate shifts on the state's ecology, economy and people.

Joining us from the studios of NPR member station WVPE in Elkhart, Indiana, is Virginia Dale. She's a climate researcher with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Ben Preston is the Deputy Director of the Climate Change Science Institute at ORNL. Scott Holladay is a fellow in energy and environmental policy at the Howard H. Baker Center in Knoxville.

Podcast here