Experts Say Farmers Need to Adapt to Changing Climate
Too hot, too wet, too dry. Experts say Nebraska's at the epicenter of a global challenge, trying to grow more food with less water.
Expect more extremes like last year's drought, they say. It may not be a popular sentiment, but these experts say agriculture has to adapt.
"Climate change is happening right here, right now in the United States," Heidi Cullen of Climate Central said.
Global warming isn't some far away thing, panelists like Cullen said.
She said, "If we continue with business as usual we're headed for a planet that's 7 to 11 degrees warmer."
Confronting that will be key, this panel says, when trying to feed a growing world.
Rosina Bierbaum of the University of Michigan, and a presidential climate advisor said, "It will absolutely affect crop productivity and very much increase."
And that's a big focus of the Global Water for Food Conference, as the University of Nebraska symposium sounds the alarm on climate change and the impact on food production.
"Make it clear we're not prepared to cope with droughts and floods today let alone impacts that will be coming tomorrow and the frequency of these," Bierbaum said.
2012 was not only the driest on record in Nebraska, but the hottest.
The impact comes in higher food prices, something that can be felt globally. Christo Fabricius said it's especially evident in Sub-Saharan Africa, like South Africa where he works at Nelson Mandela University.
He said, "We see people getting angry, riots on the streets because of food price issues beyond their control."
Past surveys of rural Nebraskans find most believe climate change is already happening. Although those in agriculture were most likely to say it's part of a normal cycle.
These experts say the battles over water will intensify, and say it'll take a global pact to address.
"Where all the role players connect, share information, share awareness about some problems, share the same vision of food security for the planet that looks beyond national boundaries," Fabricius said.
To that end, the University of Nebraska's irrigation expertise extends to countries like India, with a memorandum of understanding. Tune in to NTV's Grow Sunday night at 10:35 p.m. for more on that topic.