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Science for a Hungry World: Agriculture and Climate Change
This short, clear introduction from NASA is worth watching.
For additional (older but still relevant) videos having to do with climate change and agriculture, please see the Archive.
The Great Challenge: Farming, Food and Climate Change
Michael Pollan, NYT Conferences
Food journalist and guru Pollan offers a very good overview of both the
climate-linked problems our food system faces and of ways agriculture can help
us deal with them.
(30 minutes, 2014)
When the Water Ends: Africa's Climate Conflicts
Evan Abramson, Yale Environment 360, MediaStorm
This excellent video addresses the impacts of recurrent drought in the Lake
Turkana region of Kenya and Ethiopia, with a focus on the lives of
pastoralists and rising conflicts over water and inhabitable land.
(16 minutes, 2010)
Colorado River Basin Study
Bureau of Reclamation and 7 Western States, December 2012
From Denver to the California coast, forty million people depend on water from
the Colorado River Basin, and climate change seems likely to have serious
consequences for these users. This major study looks at the looming imbalance
between supply and demand over the next fifty years and considers various
means of coping with the coming shortage. Reporter Bruce Finley's
Denver Post article
Bureau of Reclamation's announcement
offer useful descriptions of the major findings.
||articles & essays
For Centuries the Rivers Sustained Aboriginal Culture. Now They Are Dry, Elders Despair
Lorena Allam and Carly Earl, The Guardian, January 2019
A moving and enlightening article about what is happening to the intimate
connections among running water, a living landscape, and the native culture
in drought-devasted Australia.
Harvesting Peril: Extreme Weather and Climate Change on the American Farm
Georgina Gustin and others, Inside Climate News, October 2018-January 2019
What is happening in America's agricultural world as it begins to experience
the effects of climate change? Not what one would hope, in large part due to
the political and cultural influence of the powerful Farm Bureau. This very
informative and readable series explores this complicated question and
considers why, how, and to whom these issues do, will, or should matter.
Of course some farmers know very well that climate change is affecting their
livelihoods and are working on the problem (both as it affects individual
farms and as soil sequestration of carbon can help the whole planet); good
stories about them are in
Civil Eats, and
Grist (all December 2018).
Huge Reduction in Meat-Eating "Essential" to Avoid Climate Breakdown
Damian Carrington, The Guardian, October 2018
To avoid really destructive climate change, according to "the most
comprehensive analysis yet of the food system's impact on the environment"
described in this article, we need to change both our diets and our farming
practices. There are important implications here for all of us, whether we
grow food or just eat it.
Drought and Climate Change Are Forcing Young Guatemalans to Flee to the U.S.
Lauren Markham, Huffington Post, February & October 2017
This excellent feature story connects the dots among coffee, coffee farmers,
drought, poverty, attempts at adaptation, migration, and more, focused on
Guatemala but with wider implications. Efforts to help coffee farmers are also
underway in Ethiopia and Kenya:
ee this brief article from July 2018.
Running Out of Water: Cape Town & La Paz
Unfortunately, stories like these are almost certain to grow more common, but
reading them now might help us adapt more successfully as more water supplies
dry up. These two are particularly well done. For Cape Town, South Africa
here. For La Paz, Bolivia (May 2018),
How Carbon Dioxide Can Make Food Less Nutritious
Brad Plumer, New York Times, May 2018
For the billions who rely on rice, this study isn't good news: when it grows
in air with more CO2, it is less nutritious. The Washington Post has
about this rice study. For an explanation of how this fits into the larger
picture of increased CO2 and plants, see
this good short piece.
Dismal Western Snowpack Is a Climate "Warning Sign"
Chelsea Harvey, E&E News, Scientific American, May 2018
When enough snow doesn't fall (in the Sierra Nevada or the Rockies, for
instance), or when it doesn't last long enough into the summer, bad things
happen: dry rivers, water shortages, earlier and more wildfires, more dead
trees, thirsty crops, and so on. It's clear that in the American West, the dry
winter of 2017-18 is part of a long-term pattern. For a story about the same
pattern, written before that winter, see
from News Deeply.
Avoiding Meat and Dairy Is 'Single Biggest Way' to Reduce your Impact on Earth
Damian Carrington, The Guardian, May 2018
According to what this article calls the "most comprehensive analysis to date
of the damage farming does to the planet," what we eat really matters, and we
would all do well to switch to a plant-based diet. But the calculations aren't
always simple, as
of the same study from Inside Climate News explains.
Feeding Climate Change: What the Paris Agreement Means for Food and Beverage Companies
Oxfam America, June 2016
This site offers two good resources. One is a set of clear interactive
graphics that illustrate, for 17 major food commodities (from rice to
strawberries), greenhouse gas emissions, the scale of global production, and
associated water scarcity. The other is a downloadable report, also clearly
written and illustrated, aimed at food and beverage companies but of broad
interest, that considers what is needed from global businesses while keeping
in mind the situations of small-scale producers and agricultural workers.
Sustainable Diets: What You Need to Know in 12 Charts
World Resources Institute, April 2016
On this user-friendly site, "To make sustainable diet choices easier for
consumers, WRI introduces a new protein scorecard ranking foods from lowest
(plant-based foods) to highest impact (beef), based on associated greenhouse
gas emissions per gram of protein. Encouragingly, some of the lowest-impact
foods are also the cheapest to buy." The full report is
Healthy Ground, Healthy Atmosphere: Recarbonizing the Earth's Soils
Nancy Averett, Environmental Health Perspectives, February 2016
This interesting and readable story overviews ways to increase the health and
carbon content of soil through various farming techniques, including no-till,
cover crops, and biochar. While these methods are slowly gaining traction
among farmers, there is lots of room for more action on this front.
African Nations Aim to Restore 100 Million Hectares of Land by 2030
Megan Rowling, Thompson Reuters Foundation, December 2015
Ten countries in Africa "have committed to restore 31 million hectares of
degraded and deforested land" as part of an effort to make even more land
productive again. Funds to extend and expand current efforts will come from
the World Bank, Germany, and private investors.
As Droughts Worsen, Joined-up Adaptations Build Resilience in Arid Kenya
Sophie Mbugua, Thompson Reuters Foundation, September 2015
Where one tactic might not do much to alleviate the problems coming with
drought, sometimes several tactics joined can do much better. This story is
about one pilot program of this kind, tackling issues of grazing lands, water
access for both animals and people, animal diseases, and potential conflict
in northern Kenya.
Why Beef Is the New SUV
John D. Sutter, CNN, September 2015
Part of Sutter's lively two degree reporting project, this informative piece
might give you some new things to consider on the question of what you eat.
Interesting to read, not the usual take on the topic, and with good links to
Giving Up Beef Will Reduce Carbon Footprint More than Cars, Says Expert
Damian Carrington, The Guardian, July 2015
This short report covers a couple of new studies comparing the carbon
footprint of different kinds of foods and diets. One concluded that "meat
lovers' diets cause double the climate-warming emissions of vegetarian diets";
another (published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
that beef "requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11
times more water and results in five times more climate-warming emissions.
When compared to staples like potatoes, wheat, and rice, the impact of beef
per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing
11 times more greenhouse gases."
Heat in the Heartland: Climate Change and Economic Risk in the Midwest
Risky Business, January 2015
This new report from the top-notch Risky Business research group is important
reading, not least for people interested in American food production, as well
as cities in the Midwest (defined here as the block from Missouri through Ohio
and up to the Canadian border). The "stark conclusion" they come to: "The
Midwest economy faces multiple and significant risks from climate change." A
good overview from E&E ClimateWire
In Flooded Western Zambia, Communities Lead Climate Fightback
Jeffrey Barbee, Thomson Reuters Foundation, June 2014
An interesting instance of a locally-directed adaptation plan, in this case to
climate-change alterations to the seasonal flooding of the Zambezi River.
Funded by the Climate Investment Fund's
Pilot Program for Climate Resilience.
How Weeds Could Help Feed Billions in a Warming World
Lisa Palmer, Environment 360, June 2014
"A weed is a plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered": so says one of
the scientists whose work is profiled in this story. Sometimes wild plants
have genetic characteristics that could help their domesticated cousins
survive under the tougher conditions likely to increase with global warming,
including resilience to heat, drought, flooding, and pests.
Climate Change: How a Warming World is a Threat to our Food Supplies
John Vidal, The Observer, April 2013
A succinct but thorough overview of expected impacts of climate change on the
world's food crops over coming decades. Good graphics, which are also
Plant Hardiness Zones
No doubt climate shifts affect what we can grow where. What should these
changes look like on those familiar plant hardiness zone maps‒the ones we use
to decide which plants to try? The series of maps from the last few decades
tells the story. See
here for examples; for a good 2012 blog on these changes, see
Rangelands and Global Change
Society for Range Management
This very clear and readable overview of current and anticipated changes to
rangelands emphasizes the need for smart land management to reduce and cope
with unwanted changes in land use and productivity, invasive species,
atmospheric chemistry, climate, and water resources. For links to journal
articles outlining the effects of climate change on seven global rangeland
regions, see the June 2008 Issue of Rangelands,
"Climate Change and Rangelands."
Meat Eater's Guide
Environmental Working Group, 2011
Carefully researched "lifecycle assessments of 20 types of popular meat, fish,
dairy and vegetable proteins to determine their full "cradle-to-grave" carbon
footprints." The "At-a-Glance" document is the place to start, but there is
lots more here as well, including a very detailed full report and many other
resources for those who want to eat with the planet's health in mind.
Climate Change Publications, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations
As one might expect, the FAO is deeply concerned about the effects of climate
change on world food supplies and on farmers, and they have many useful
publications on a wide range of topics. Two examples:
Livestock's Role in Climate Change and Air Pollution and
Agriculture to Climate Change.
Agriculture Resources, Cornell Climate Change
This site offers an excellent set of resources, including factsheets,
decision-support tools for farmers, videos, scientific studies, and more.
Examples are centered on New York but should be useful to many other
agricultural producers, researchers, and students.
High and Dry: Climate Change, Water, and the Economy
World Bank, 2016
Here is the opening of the summary of this rich, sobering, and practical
report: "The impacts of climate change will be channeled primarily through the
water cycle, with consequences that could be large and uneven across the
Agricultural Adaptation to a Changing Climate
US Department of Agriculture, July 2012, 76 pages (total)
This thorough and readable report pays attention to regional differences and
focuses on adaptation. Worth reading for anyone with a serious interest in