Posts Tagged: Climate Change
Coincidentally, two news releases were distributed yesterday with information from UC Ag and Natural Resources about climate change.
One news release announces the current issue of California Agriculture journal, which is devoted to news and research on climate change and how it will alter California’s environment and landscape, agriculture and food quality. The cover of the magazine says climate change is "unequivocal," a word pulled from the 2007 report the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level," the IPCC report says.
Articles in the journal -
- Summarize the predicted changes to California’s climate, weather, growing conditions, pollution, sea level and other factors
- Explain why initial increases in crop production due to “CO2 fertilization” decline rapidly, a finding with important implications for hunger and nutrition worldwide
- Predict that the numbers and kinds of invasive insect pests will increase because of rising temperatures
- Demonstrate how alternative agricultural practices such as cover cropping can have a significant impact on the amounts of greenhouse gases emitted from fields
The second climate change news release was generated by the UC Berkeley news service. It says climate change will bring about major shifts in worldwide fire patterns, and that those changes are coming fast, according to an analysis led by researchers at UC Berkeley and Texas Tech University.
"This is the first attempt to quantitatively model why we see fire where we see it across the entire planet," the news release quotes study author Max Moritz, assistant cooperative extension specialist in wildland fire at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources and co-director of the UC Center for Fire Research & Outreach. "What is startling in these findings is the relatively rapid rate at which we're likely to see very broad-scale changes in fire activity for large parts of the planet."
I can't resist a story that places any good light on climate change. It gives me hope for my children and children's children. One example, covered by the Times Online of the United Kingdom a few years ago, was a report that residents of Greenland will now be able to grow their own vegetables, rather than import everything from Europe, because of warmer, shorter winters.
A second story on climate change the involves a bit of good news for California appeared in the Stockton Record last week. The story said efforts to battle climate change will likely mean more jobs and better-looking forests in coming decades on the wooded slopes surrounding Sierra Nevada towns.
Reporter Dana Nichols wrote that more intensive management of forests, including thinning underbrush, can speed tree growth and prevent catastrophic wildfires, thus locking up more carbon in wood and keeping it out of the atmosphere. And keeping carbon out of the atmosphere is about to become a paying proposition, thanks to state and federal efforts to set up carbon trading markets and place limits on carbon emissions.
There are additional potential benefits associated with more intensive forest management. Small-diameter forest materials could conceivably be burned in power plants. However, the cost to produce electricity from wood waste in California is currently too high to make such plants competitive with plants that use "dirty" fuels, such as coal and gas.
But it works in Europe. Biomass plants and the electricity they produce are one of the fastest and most effective ways to use forests to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, according to various experts and studies, the Record story said.
"That, interestingly, is where the Europeans have said is the biggest change," the reporter quoted Bill Stewart, UC Cooperative Extension forestry and fire specialist.
UC Davis genetic resources analyst Adi Damania responded in a letter to the Woodland Daily Democrat to an article on global warming published in the same newspaper by another UC Davis researcher.
The original article, summarized in this blog entry, provided details of a new report about the projected impact of global warming on Yolo County agriculture.
Damania made the point that plant genetics may be the ticket to maintaining a viable agriculture industry in a warmer climate with less rain. Adapting to global warming, he wrote, "will require a change in (plants') genetic composition."
". . . we may have to once more turn to the wild germplasm gene pool in order to overcome stress to our current crops from climate change," according to the letter.
The second half of the letter lamented the fact that, due to recent financial cuts in California state funding, the ANR Genetic Resources Conservation Program was "ordered to be shut down," threatening farmers' and scientists' ability to overcome the probable agricultural complications posed by climate change.
"The closure will make it all the more difficult for California to face the challenges that lie ahead in the near future as regards its agricultural production," Damania wrote.
UC scientists have outlined specific changes to Yolo County agriculture expected over the next 50 years because of global climate change. A preview of the scientific report appeared in an article in the Woodland Daily Democrat by UC Davis Cooperative Extension plant physiologist Louise Jackson.
According to the article, some likely effects of global warming in Yolo County are:
Warm-season horticultural crops (tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn and peppers) will be less viable, encouraging a shift to hot-season crops such as melon and sweet potato.
Grains will benefit very slightly from elevated carbon dioxide concentrations.
Higher temperatures will decrease yields of walnuts and table grapes, but almonds may be less sensitive.
Almonds, walnuts and citrus will benefit from a decline in winter freezes.
The article said that the projections in the report have not adequately considered the potential for adaptation, and are based on current agricultural practices and crop varieties.
"Support for investments in technology, plant breeding and cropping system research will be necessary to ensure yield reliability, and greater agricultural sustainability," Jackson wrote.
Other projected effects of global climate change outlined in Jackson's article:
Precipitation may be higher, lower or similar to current conditions.
More Sierra Nevada precipitation will arrive as rainfall, and snowmelt will come earlier in spring.
Western Yolo County, where agriculture relies on local rainfall and Coast Range water supplies, may be more vulnerable to water shortages. Eastern Yolo County is expected to be less vulnerable to water shortages.
Reduced Sierra snowpack will increase flooding along the Sacramento River, presenting economic and ecological tradeoffs for ecosystem restoration vs. farming.
Rangeland livestock production in grasslands and woodlands along the western margin of the county will be particularly vulnerable to future drought.
Jackson's article said the report will soon be released by the California Energy Commission, which provided financial backing for the study.