Memo to Sen. Dorgan: North Dakota scientists warn that ” Agriculture and livestock production will be one of the areas increasingly impacted” by human-caused global warming

This is a guest post by CAP senior fellow Tom Kenworthy.

In its authoritative report on “Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.” issued last June, the U.S. Global Change Research Program left little doubt of what’s at stake for the Great Plains in a warming world.

Projected changes in long-term climate and more frequent extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, and heavy rainfall will affect many aspects of life in the Great Plains. These include the region’s already threatened water resources, essential agricultural and ranching activities, unique natural and prorected areas, and the health and prosperity of its inhabitants.

Consensus predictions of more frequent and severe heat waves, droughts, flash floods, and falling crop yields have convinced 20 leading North Dakota scientists to join together as a science advisory panel to the North Dakota Climate Solutions Partnership. In doing so, the scientists from seven state universities and colleges issued a statement of principles affirming the overwhelming scientific conclusion that the earth’s climate is warming and that human activity is driving much of that change:

There is strong scientific consensus that human activity is a significant factor in the current  climate change.  The existing consensus on climate change has been affirmed by international scientific bodies….

Agriculture and livestock production will be one of the areas increasingly impacted by this trend.

Hey Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), are you listening? Do you remember last year’s floods?

In the months since the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate bill, and as the Senate has been winding up to consider its own legislation, Dorgan – likely to be a key Senate vote — has been staking out his opposition to cap and trade based on unrealistic fears of Wall Street speculation.

In a July op-ed in the Bismark Tribune under the headline “Reduce our CO2 yes”¦.but cap-and-trade, no” Dorgan wrote: “I’m willing to cap carbon to address the threat to our environment. But it has to be done right.”

“For those who like the wild price swings in the oil futures market, the unseemly speculation in mortgage-backed securities, or the exotic and risky financial products like credit dafult swaps that pushed our economy into the ditch, this cap-and-trade plan will be the answer to our prayers.”

Waxman-Markey includes numerous protections against the speculative threat that so worries Dorgan, as was explained at length here.  And as New York Times columnist Paul Kruman explained in July post on his blog, Dorgan’s “reaction is 99% wrong, and bad for the planet.”

The North Dakota scientists, by returning the spotlight to the fundadmental principles of climate science, have rightly underscored an essential point: Dorgan’s worries about market speculation are a sideshow and he needs to be reminded of what’s at stake for North Dakota.

“The earth’s climate is warming,” begins the scientists’ statement.  “Consequences from climate change in the Great Plains are likely to include:

  • Increased vulnerability of natural ecosystems to invasive species, pests, and loss of native species
  • More frequent and severe heat waves and droughts
  • Heavy downpours leading to increased flash flooding
  • Increased stress on waterfowl production in the prairie pothole region
  • Greater pressure on crop yields due to rising temperatures and more extreme weather events.

The time to act is now.


5 Responses to Memo to Sen. Dorgan: North Dakota scientists warn that ” Agriculture and livestock production will be one of the areas increasingly impacted” by human-caused global warming

  1. mark says:

    Well, I live in rural Manitoba, directly above North Dakota. The effects are obvious now. Two years ago Manitoba had the worst tornado in Canadian history; Unprecedented flooding of huge areas of farmland across the province.

    one successful life long 65 year old farmer I know says he has never seen difficult conditions such as we have had over the last few years.

    The government of Manitoba, believing in science, just completed an enlargement of the floodway protection for the City of Winnipeg, to prepare for a worst in one thousand years flood of the Red River.

    Hard to understand, what they don’t understand.

    Thanks for this website bringing some news of positive developments.

  2. Leif says:

    Dropped Comment, #1
    Senator Dorgan does not like “cap and trade” because he does not trust the markets and still he fights market reform and controls. Senator Dorgan does not like a carbon tax because the “T” word gives him the hebe jibes.
    That pretty much leaves the status quo
    It looks to me like Dorgan has got to go!

  3. abdulloh Joachim says:

    The record flood level of the Red River was 40.65 feet in 2009 at Fargo

    Other records were 39.18 feet in 1897 and 39.72 feet in 1997. How do we explain the level 100 years ago?

    Here in Manitoba we are a long distance from the rivers source of water. Paved surfaces don’t absorb water and enhance runoff. Ditches and roads channel water and increase the velocity of runoff. In blizzards, cities dump snow they clear off into the river.

    [JR: Wow, you totally missed the point, but thanks for your data. So it looks like we have had two 100-year floods in a little over a decade. Should tell you something. The point is not whether one individual extreme event was caused by global warming, but whether the extreme events are starting to pile up. The science predicted that would happen, and the observations say it is happening.]

  4. Gail says:

    Here’s the 1020 Food Crisis For Dummies: His USDA maps of states of emergency are mind-boggling.

    Eric attributes most of this to wild weather from climate change. Personally I think toxic emissions are playing a prominent role:

    I know, I know, two links and *hangs head in sorrow* into moderation purgatory again…