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Climate change evidence mounts

snow-covered trees
GLOBAL WARMING, REALLY? It certainly didn’t seem like the climate was warming up when a big part of Indiana awoke to scenes like this on April 2. Such occurrences emphasize the difference between climate and weather.
The climate may be heating up, but Mother Nature can still deliver a few surprises along the way.

It’s no accident that you’ve seen several articles about climate change on this website recently. Trust me, they’re not there because I’m a wild-eyed believer in climate change. Ask Dave Nanda, who writes the Corn Illustrated and Breeder’s Journal columns.

When he wrote a story about climate change earlier this year, I balked. I finally agreed but added the note that it didn’t reflect the views of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He followed up with a story about how cover crops can help combat global warming and laid out an inexpensive plan for cover crops developed by Marshall Alford, a no-tiller in Dearborn County, Ind. OK, Dave, enough!

What changed? Why is climate change discussed at length here? First, Nanda began receiving phone calls. People wanted to know what led him to conclude climate change was occurring, and if cover crops could work for them, too. Nanda received more calls and emails on this subject than on any topic since he began writing for us. And he receives lots of calls!

Then Darrell Boone, Wabash, Ind., attended a meeting on climate change sponsored by Tipton County Extension when I couldn’t make it. He learned that the Purdue University Climate Change Research Center has developed a wealth of evidence and makes it available online.

Boone interviewed both Ray McCormick, a Vincennes, Ind., farmer and conservationist, and Wally Tyner, a well-respected Purdue agricultural economist who keeps up with the PCCRC.

Pivotal moment
I sat down to edit Boone’s stories on April 2, but not before I went outside to take pictures. There were 2 inches of fresh, white snow clinging on tree branches and fenceposts. How ironic I was about to dive into global warming!

In fact, I emailed Ken Scheeringa in the Indiana State Climate Office to confirm my suspicions. It snowed more at Indianapolis once spring officially began than during the entire winter combined! Previously that would have been all the evidence I needed to conclude global warming was the hoax I thought it was. Thankfully, I surround myself with smart people, and I also reserve the right to change my mind.

I called Tyner and laid out my dilemma. Yes, the evidence for warming over time and an increase in annual rainfall seem overwhelming. But what do I do with snow in spring?

“It actually isn’t a surprise to climatologists,” Tyner said. “They predict more moisture in spring and less in summer in the years ahead. It came as snow, but it’s more spring moisture. Heavy rains followed in the next few days.

“There’s a big difference between climate and weather, Tom,” Tyner said. “Climate is the long-term trend. I’m not a climatologist, but ones I respect are convincing. The climate is warming and moisture patterns are shifting. Weather is about everyday events. You can get snow in spring — that’s a local weather deal.”

The lynchpin came when I asked him how he knows climate change is caused by man. “It’s all about rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere,” he replied. “They’ve gone up steadily since the beginning of the industrial age.”

I already knew carbon dioxide levels have increased significantly. That’s fact, not fake news.

Am I a convert? It’s difficult to deny facts. Read these articles and make up your own mind. Yes, Dave Nanda may even write about global warming again!

Comments? Email tom.bechman@farmprogress.com.

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