Sunday, January 21, 2007

Vermonters forced to think about adapting to climate change

In "Endgame: The Problem of Civilization", author and environmental activist Derrick Jensen writes:

"Do you believe that our culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living?

For the last several years I've taken to asking people this question, at talks and rallies, in libraries, on buses, in airplanes, at the grocery store, the hardware store. The answers range from emphatic no’s to laughter. No one answers in the affirmative.

My next question: how will this understanding -- that this culture will not voluntarily stop destroying the natural world, eliminating indigenous cultures, exploiting the poor, and killing those who resist --shift our strategy and tactics?"

People who are in tune with the rhythms of Nature as they work and play (farmers, fishers, gardeners, foresters, naturalists, writers, etc.) are telling us that real and significant changes are already underway. The task of preventing climate change-- as daunting as it is -- pales in comparison to the challenges of adapting to its unpredictable consequences. (GW)

Agriculture needs to prepare for warming, do its part to reduce it

By Terri Hallenbeck
Burlington Free Press
January 19, 2007

MONTPELIER -- Vermont's growing season is longer, perennials flower earlier, and its average temperature -- particularly in the winter -- has risen.

All these facts add up to a mixed bag when it comes to agriculture, Vernon Grubinger, vegetable and berry specialist for the University of Vermont Extension, told legislators Thursday.

Grubinger gave one of three presentations as legislative committees concluded the second of three weeks of hearings on global warming. Each speaker bolstered the argument for the state to make changes because of global warming.

The average temperature in the Northeast has risen 1.8 degrees over the last 100 years, Grubinger said.

On the upside, he said, climate change gives farmers a potentially longer season with more rain and less winter stress on crops. On the downside, more extreme weather patterns have made crops more prone to flooding and drought, to new insects, diseases and weeds.

Livestock suffer more heat stress, which means less milk production from cows. Cool-weather crops such as apples could suffer. Increased carbon dioxide is good for crops such as potatoes, but warmer weather is bad for the edible portion of the vegetable, he said.

There are two things farmers can do in response, Grubinger said -- prepare for the changes and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to combat the change.

On the preparation front, he said, barn designs ought to take warmer temperatures into consideration. Cows might need more shade in pastures.

When it comes to reducing emissions, he said, farmers can make changes such as using less nitrogen fertilizer, but more and more farms are making their own energy. He cited a Massachusetts farm that heats its greenhouses with its corn crop. Canola or sunflower crops could produce oil.

Other speakers offered advice for slowing the output of greenhouse gases.

"The general conclusion is that the world needs a broad range of energy options," said John Boright, executive director of international affairs at the National Academy of Sciences. "We don't need just one thing."

Oil, coal and nuclear power offer uncertainties, he noted. Renewable energy such as solar sometimes needs a backup.

Michael Stoddard, deputy director of the nonprofit group Environment Northeast, told legislators that solutions have to go further than encouraging people to drive more fuel-efficient cars. He suggested requiring more energy-efficient buildings, funding research and development of cleaner fuels, exploring underground storage of carbon dioxide and encouraging other states to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as Vermont has done.

After five days of hearings on global warming, some legislators turned to Boright for advice. Sen. Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden, said she's been receiving e-mails from people who deny the existence of global warming. How can she respond, she asked.

"That's why I sort of emphasized the process," Boright said. The academy brings together independent scientists to study an issue. They gather information in public, retreat behind closed doors to come up with the answer, which is then reviewed before a final report is written, he said. The conclusion that greenhouse gases are warming the Earth was intensely scrutinized, he said, and the same conclusion was reached by science academies around the world.

"There's really no serious disagreement about that," he said.


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