Those of us who are interested in climate change but not congressional procedure junkies have been surprised to learn that comprehensive energy legislation apparently needs to make its way through the House Agriculture Committee. And those of us who aren’t House Ag junkies have been surprised to learn that the Chairman of the Committee, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, is apparently quite conservative on environmental issues. Consequently, he’s emerged as a major impediment to action. And also as the kind of guy who doesn’t seem to even understand what climate change is:
We’ve just had the biggest floods and coldest winters we’ve ever had. They’re saying to us [that climate change is] going to be a big problem because it’s going to be warmer than it usually is; my farmers are going to say that’s a good thing since they’ll be able to grow more corn.
Sadly, he’s not joking about this. Back in the real-world, farmers in any given place have worked over the years to achieve a setup that’s well-suited to the climate they face. If you drastically change the climate, that’s a big problem. What’s more, as Brad Johnson points out “global warming brings not only warmer temperatures but also heavier floods.” What’s more, a recent NOAA report concluded that “even moderate increases in temperature will decrease yields of corn, wheat, sorghum, bean rice, cotton, and peanut crops.”
The agriculture system is heavily implicated in our current, unsustainable climate trajectory. Consequently, adjustment may be painful for practitioners of industrial agriculture and for communities that depend on it. But simply pretending that the problem doesn’t exist doesn’t make the problem go away. Agriculture is also heavily exposed to the potentially devastating impact of climate change. Farmers and farm communities are being done no real favors by Peterson’s attitude.