Symposium: Accelerating Rate Of Climate Change Will Challenge Farmers

Oct 28, 2013

Climate change is forcing farmers to adapt, but the accelerating rate of change will present bigger challenges to food production. 

That was one of the messages conveyed during a day long symposium at the Vermont Law School sponsored by the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law last week.

William Hohenstein is Director of the Climate Change Program Office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He says studies of the 2012 drought in this country found that farmers that had strong conservation practices fared better.

And Hohensstein says the quality of crops today means they can withstand drought better than they could in past years. 

But he says the rate of global warming will accelerate from the current pace of point-2 degrees centigrade per decade, which will make adapting more difficult. 

“While farmers so far are doing a pretty good job of reacting to the changes we’re seeing, by mid next century we could see .6 to .8 degrees of change per decade and that’s really going to put a stress on farmers as they try to adapt to the changes they’re seeing," Hohenstein said.

Hohenstein says government farm programs are being implemented nationally, regionally and globally to develop practices that address the causes of climate change in order to avoid the worst case scenarios.  

Writer Amy Larkin told attendees that in the  meantime a new business model must emerge where a product’s price is tied to the environmental impact of making it.

The biggest change, I think that will save us is in the business rules that charge businesses for the damages they incur. Until those externalities are incorporated into the price of everything that we buy, we are living in delusion-land," Larkin said.

Larkin says every business has a stake in climate change because as severe weather events become more frequent, it will be more difficult for businesses to plan.

The symposium also covered topics like the military’s response and forced migration caused by climate change.