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Climate change articles prompt varied reactions

Dave Nanda examining corn leaf
CORN BELT MOVING? Dave Nanda, a crop consultant and Indiana Prairie Farmer columnist, believes it’s likely that over the next several decades, the ideal region for growing corn in the U.S. will move north due to climate change.
Everyone agrees this elephant in the room is too big to ignore.

The June issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer wasn’t bashful about discussing climate change. Darrell Boone’s story about how farmer Ray McCormick is adjusting his farming practices due to what he perceives as the effects of climate change ran on the cover. Other stories followed.

Many of you have made comments, either to me, Darrell or Dave Nanda, who has also written about climate change. The reaction has been mixed. Some people say they believe in climate change and the ideas expressed in the articles. Others say they still think it’s more junk science and hoax than reality. Even Nanda has fielded many calls from people who aren’t convinced, and who disagree with his views.

One thing is constant, however. Everyone who has commented agrees it’s a big deal. No one complained that we covered the topic. Believe in it or not, one fact is clear: It’s the elephant in the room that people in agriculture can no longer ignore. The climate appears to be changing over the past several decades, with every year featuring wilder swings in weather than in the recent past.

We can argue about whether or not man is causing it, and there are good points on both sides. You can also make the point that it can get political, although we tried to stay out of politics in our reporting as much as possible. That’s because politics muddies the waters.

For example, you can believe 100% in global warming and still make the case that pulling out of the world agreement on climate change was the right move because it would have put U.S. companies at a disadvantage if they complied while other countries and their companies ignored it. Or you can argue that the U.S. should have stayed in and set the example. Either way, soon you’re wrapped up in politics and have lost sight of what could happen in the future due to climate change, whether it’s man-made or not.

Agree to disagree
One fact in all the climate change talk seems indisputable. Carbon dioxide levels have risen dramatically in the past 60 years. Period. It’s a fact. It’s not up for debate. Whether it’s good or bad, part of a natural cycle or due to greenhouse gases and emissions from cars and trucks — that can be debated.

We’ve had callers tell us that higher carbon dioxide levels are the reason for increased corn yields over the past few years. Can you prove that’s not true? We can’t. We can’t prove it’s true, either. It makes sense — plants turn carbon dioxide into sugars through photosynthesis — but we can’t prove corn makes more sugars and produces more yield because there’s more carbon dioxide around.  

Other callers insist volcanoes like the one erupting in Hawaii this year send more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than man could in years. Yes, volcanoes spew out gases and can have global effects. But can anyone calling prove just how big that effect is? Can they prove it offsets all the emissions from all the cars in a decade? A year? A month? If you have that data, we would like to see it. All we’ve heard and seen so far is lots of speculation.

The bottom line is that the possible impacts of climate change is a conversation agriculture needs to continue to have. We’ve melted the ice, pardon the pun, and we’re ready for more discussion.

Comments? Email [email protected].

TAGS: Crops
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