Climate Change Could Cost California’s Ranching and Timber Industries Over $200 Million a Year

by Zachary Rybarczyk

The destruction of ecosystems necessary to sustain California’s ranching and timber industries could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars per year by 2070, according to a new study.

By combining an economic analysis with environmental models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, researchers from eight different institutions calculated the amount of environmental and economic damage to woodlands and shrub lands necessary to sustain California’s timber and livestock industries.

The costs could add more than $200 million each year in the next six decades.

The research was conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund, Duke University, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Biology Institute, USDA Forest Service, Stanford University and the University of California at Santa Barbara. It concluded that global warming will lead to the destruction of non-irrigated vegetation and a “consistent decline” in the acreage of conifer forests, an environmental impact that will force the “gritty worlds of cattle ranching and forestry [to] take it on the chin.”

“It’s important for policymakers to better understand the value of services that nature provides to California’s economy, so that they can work to protect our natural resources and the economy in the face of climate change,”  said lead researcher  Rebecca Shaw, Ph.D.,  associate vice president of EDF’s ecosystems program and a working group member of the IPCC.”

Most of the costs to the livestock industry would be attributed to additional feed expenses necessary to overcome a lack of naturally growing grasses used by ranchers to forage their cattle:

“A less stable climate will reduce the ability of natural landscapes to support cattle grazing, so ranchers may have to grow or buy extra hay instead of getting it for free from nature, as they do now,” said lead report author Rebecca Shaw, Ph.D., associate vice president of EDF’s ecosystems program and a working group member of the IPCC.

The threat to forestry, agriculture and livestock is very real: In the last year alone, Texas has seen $5.3 billion in losses in the agricultural sector and $2 billion in losses in the livestock industry due to a serious, prolonged drought that was made worse by global warming.

The collaborative study on California was issued just as the state implements a carbon cap and trade system under the Global Warming Solutions Act – a program that will provide farmers and ranchers new economic opportunities by allowing them to sequester carbon and sell credits.

— Zachary Rybarczyk is an intern on the energy team at the Center for American Progress

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2 Responses to Climate Change Could Cost California’s Ranching and Timber Industries Over $200 Million a Year

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    We need to know which temperature increases this paper is assuming. If it’s boilerplate IPCC (likely), the news is bad enough, and the study points out some important details.

    If, on the other hand, there is abrupt warming, forest ecosystems will have no time to adapt. When changes are more or less gradual, hardier species that already have seeds or a few pioneers in place take over. When the changes are abrupt, tree death is too rapid to allow for colonization, resulting in erosion and, at times, desertification.

  2. Kristen says:

    If these forecasts were true, we should be planning for more dams and conserving the hydroelectric dams that we have which no only filter and clean the rivers and keep them cooler, they allow for us to continue to offer our country access to local, fresh food. Importing (which is the direction we are going more and more every day) has a much larger carbon emission footprint and we loose the money locally. Lets start to follow NEPA and evaluate the impact on our human populations and also give credit to the many great things we do in conservation every day. I want to continue to buy raw milk and organic and fresh meet and vegetables – I want that for my children too!