Monday, January 07, 2019

Climate change poses outsized risk to rural America, much of which has 'limited capacity to respond'

Daily Yonder map; click on the image to enlarge it.
Climate change poses an outsized risk to rural America, according to the recently released National Climate Assessment by climate scientists from 13 federal agencies. That's because rural economies depend more on the outdoors, with industries such as timber, agriculture, ranching, hunting, fishing and other recreation activities dominating. The report has a separate chapter on rural impact, predicting reduced agricultural productivity, degradation of soil and water and increased health challenges to rural people and livestock, and noting that "Residents in rural communities often have limited capacity to respond to climate change impacts, due to poverty and limitations in community resources.

"For portions of rural America with an economy based on agriculture, climate scientists are most worried about shifting geographic suitability of particular crops and abnormal timing for planting and harvest. These changes may result in additional use of herbicides and pesticides, which could create additional health risks from chemical applications," Bryce Oates writes for The Daily Yonder. "Crop and pasture yields and profitability could also be affected by changes in rainfall, temperature and extreme weather events. Increased flooding could increase soil erosion and water pollution from agricultural runoff, according to the report."

The report's authors predict that likely changes in climate patterns will make agricultural commodity markets more volatile, "shift plant and animal ranges, increase the number and intensity of droughts and floods, and increase the number and size of wildfires throughout the rural landscape," Oates reports. Coastal erosion and rising sea levels could flood low-lying areas and disrupt wildlife-centered activities like hunting and fishing. Decreasing snowpack would hurt areas that rely on winter sports like skiing. Increasing forest pests and diseases could decrease timber harvests. And wildfires are predicted to become more frequent, intense and expensive.

The report predicts that adapting to these changes will be more difficult for rural populations, which tend to be older, poorer, and less educated, Oates reports.

1 comment:

steve said...

"no sudden changes that would be hard to adapt to."
/////////////////GLOBAL WARMING////////////////
Other areas of the country and world will be affected disproportionately. Are we prepared to deal with the results (displacement, food scarcity, water scarcity, migration) in a humane way? Look at how we're handling things currently...

This is a political problem, not just a science and engineering problem. And our solution should be equitable.

The more stress you put into a system, the more chance of catastrophic failure. Given the current state of our political system, how can we trust that it will handle that?

This is why I consider climate change an existential threat. Sure, technically some of humanity will likely survive, but how much? What proof do we have that we can handle these stressors humanely? The potential for mass immiseration and suffering is horrifying.