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Adapting to Climate Change – The American Farmer

Climate Change - Responsible for 30,000 Dead Livestock in the Dakotas?
Climate Change – Responsible for 30,000 Dead Livestock in the Dakotas?

Climate change is already affecting farmers around the world, but can they adapt in time to prevent global food catastrophe?

Climate plays a huge role in what crops and livestock can be tended in a given area. Because climate change disrupts normal weather patterns, farmers need to adapt, sometimes quickly. For example, severe snowfall, such as not occurred in at least a decade, killed more than 26,000 livestock in Perú, South America, in August of 2013. Similarly, the winter of 2013 was particularly harsh in North and South Dakota, United States, wiping out entire herds. Similar severe and unusual weather, attributable to climate change, has been causing problems for farmers around the world.

Governments are doing their best to address climate change, but the results are far from immediate. It may be decades before any reversal is effected, and most countries are admittedly behind on any such efforts. If weather patterns can be brought back to normal at all, what is being done in the meantime to assist farmers most-affected by climate-change-fueled extreme weather?

United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warns that the US will regret any failure to adapt and prepare. Climate change “is [already] having its impact on agriculture,” says Vilsack. Referring to the October snowstorm in the Dakotas, he said “nobody anticipated and expected that severe a storm, that early,” the result being tens of thousands of dead cattle, which suffered fatally because they weren’t able to be retrieved before the storm hit.

To help farmers adapt to changing weather without losing their livelihoods, seven “climate hubs” are being established to help educate farmers on the effects and risks of climate change. The climate hubs will attempt to combine known long-term risks to help farmers implement countermeasures, such as improved irrigation techniques to counteract drought or wildfire. Closer integration with the National Weather Service might be helpful for farmers to implement emergency measures, recovering free-range cattle in the face of a severe winter storm, for example.

Photo credit: USDA NRCS South Dakota Foter CC BY-SA

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