Even climate change brings opportunity

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Aug. 15, and it’s 102 degrees in the Kansas City area.

OK, I picked the hottest day of the year to say this: Global warming is more of a political expediency than a scientific reality.

Is polar ice really disappearing? Sure, in some places it is, but in other places it is increasing. And, if so much ice is melting, why haven’t ocean temperatures changed or water levels risen appreciably?

The earth has undergone numerous warming and cooling cycles over the past couple of thousand years, so is this one any different? Are humans to blame? Is man finally making a difference in this one that he did not make in previous warming cycles?

There are just too many unanswered questions.

But it hasn’t stopped politicians from trying to capitalize on the issue. And, public concern has reached the point where people are willing to allocate public funds to the climate-change issue.

So, it made sense when the California State Board of Food and Agriculture held a public hearing on climate change on July 25 and brought in several experts to testify. Dennis Baldocchi, professor of biometeorology at the University of California-Berkeley, said the state’s fruit trees are being hurt by milder winters — specifically, less winter chill and less winter dormancy. Others pointed to decreased quality of the state’s wine grapes and expansion of a cotton pest known as the cotton pink bollworm.

I attended because of the dairy connection. Paul Martin, director of environmental services for Western United Dairymen, was there to talk about the California Climate Action Registry, a public/private partnership created by the state legislature in 2000. The Registry has initiated voluntary reporting of greenhouse-gas emissions. If farms can reduce greenhouse gases through new technology, such as methane digesters, they will be in line to receive greenhouse-gas credits (trade-able on the Chicago Climate Exchange).

Assembly Bill 32, also known as the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, provides further impetus.

The bill requires the California Air Resources Board to find ways to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent by the year 2020. While exact implementation and funding is not yet known, the potential exists for farmers to receive financial incentives to help make the reductions possible. 

Already, dairy producers are being approached by utilities and investor groups to discuss possible cost-share programs to install methane digesters on dairies, Martin says.

“Certain businesses, such as utilities, are required to have a certain amount of their portfolios as ‘green,’ so they are looking at a partnership with dairies as a way to do that,” he adds.

It is a significant opportunity.  

Perhaps you will remain skeptical, like me, that global warming exists or that humans are responsible. But that shouldn’t stop you from working with those who believe differently and are willing to provide financial incentives. 

As a story on page 42 of this month’s issue points out, you can regard change as an “opportunity” or a “loss.” So, when something like global warming comes along, you can find a silver lining like many California producers have done.

   



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