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Can humans control climate change?

Tom J. Bechman A silver car parked next to an electric charging station
ELECTRIC CARS ARE HERE: Cars that don’t burn fossil fuel are a reality. Charging stations are starting to appear across the country.
Opinions are mixed regarding whether humanity can slow climate change, but there may be some things you can do.

Dave Nanda’s name appears often in Indiana Prairie Farmer. The corn breeder provides expertise for the Corn Watch project and writes Corn Illustrated and Breeder’s Journal articles. Recently, he wrote about possible impacts of climate change on crops.

Nanda accepted the premise of climate change much more quickly than I did. In fact, while it’s now obvious that climate change is occurring, resulting in weather extremes every season, I still believe the jury is out on whether it’s a naturally occurring cycle or due to man-made influences.

So, after Nanda wrote this column about climate change, which ran in the January issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer, I told him, “Enough; let’s get back to the basics of growing corn.” What did Nanda say?

“No problem, Tom, I can accept it. One story per year devoted to saving our climate is well worth it.”

Later, though, Nanda discovered that some of his own friends were skeptical. “Their question to me was whether we can really do anything to slow down or deter climate change,” Nanda explains. “I believe that we can, individually and as a society, but we need to be smart about it.”

Combating climate change

Here is how Nanda answers his friends who want concrete examples of how someone could make a positive difference against climate change.

Consider solar and wind power. “Converting prime farmland into solar farms isn’t a smart idea,” Nanda says. He doesn’t see the common sense in taking our best farmland out of production for use in an inefficient energy conversion system. “However, putting solar panels on rooftops of farm sheds is smart,” he says. Nanda knows farmers who have installed solar panels on sheds, working with their local electric utility to capture electricity and reduce dependance on other sources to produce electric power.

Also, solar panels in deserts and windmills on hills or in oceans could capture energy instead of using increasing amounts of fossil fuels, Nanda says.

Grow cover crops. Seeding cover crops with legumes could provide organic matter and catch some carbon dioxide and nitrogen from the atmosphere, Nanda says. He believes growing cover crops makes sense for many reasons, including sequestering carbon, whether you’re getting paid for carbon credits or not.

Plant trees. Replacing dead trees or adding more in existing groves could capture more carbon dioxide and add oxygen to the atmosphere through photosynthesis, Nanda believes. If you have land, you can plant trees. Many ash trees have been destroyed by an insect. Help the environment by planting new trees where ash trees died.

Cut methane production. No, Nanda isn’t advocating phasing out livestock. Instead, he points to research that indicates certain seaweed plants, when fed to cattle, decrease methane. More research is needed, and there may be other ways to adjust rations and reduce methane production.

Study electric cars. Nanda isn’t a proponent of spending billions of borrowed dollars on outlandish ideas related to climate change, as some propose. Those efforts won’t bear fruit if China, India and others continue polluting and don’t do their fair share. However, he advocates taking a leadership role in research where it makes sense. Electric cars, for example, are here, and more research is needed to improve batteries.

“Climate change is happening as we speak,” Nanda concludes. “There are things we can all do to slow it down.”

Comments? Email [email protected].

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