We can’t afford to ignore climate change report

Mother Nature was not kind to farmers this past growing season. Snow in April and too much rain in July made for a rough start in the fields.

On Friday, a scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies set off dire climate alarms. The report warned that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the U.S. economy by century’s end. Of course, one of the motivational factors to ignore such reports is the economy. President Donald Trump’s agenda calls for environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth.

So it’s not surprising that a good percentage of U.S. citizens scoff at the global warming warnings.

But right here in southwest Minnesota, can we afford to completely ignore the report’s findings? If the scientists are even close to their predictions, the nation’s farm belt is likely to be among the hardest-hit regions. Farmers here could see their bottom line threatened even more than it is now.

“Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agriculture productivity in the U.S.,” the report said. “Expect increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality and changes in extreme heat events in the United States and abroad.”

If that isn’t enough to send chills up and down your spine, here’s another reason to heed the alarms. By 2050, scientists say the changes in rainfall and hotter weather will reduce Midwest farm productivity to levels last seen in the 1980s.

So what’s the answer? More investment in renewable energy will help. And many farmers in southwest Minnesota have jumped on the wind farm bandwagon. And more wind farm projects are in the works.

But other parts of nation — and our leadership — need to get on board as well. Spending a few extra dollars now may prevent the nation from paying a whole lot more in the future in recovering from weather disasters.

The real disaster, however, is that without productive farmland, we can’t feed the nation.

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