Global Warming Will Harm Great Lakes
New Report Outlines Great Lakes Climate Change Impacts
All American Patriots
Published March 8th, 2005
Urbana—Agriculture in Illinois and the entire Great Lakes
will be hurt by a changing climate, says a new report
from the University of Illinois and the Union of Concerned
Scientists (UCS). Changing precipitation patterns, more
extreme rainfall events, rising ozone concentrations,
and an increase in pests and pathogens will disrupt current
farming practices throughout the region.
"Farmers in the region are already suffering from
wetter spring and fall weather, and the intensity of rainstorms
has also increased," says Michelle Wander, University
of Illinois Associate Professor of soil fertility and
co-author of Impacts on Agriculture: Our Region's Vital
Economic Sector. "For farmers, these changes mean
crop losses and higher costs."
Wander and co-author Steve Clemmer of UCS agree that
agriculture is an important part of the solution to global
warming. "Practical solutions exist today for farmers
to reduce heat-trapping gas emissions from their operations,"
says Clemmer, Research Director for the Clean Energy Program
at UCS. "Along with addressing climate change, many
of the available solutions also reduce soil erosion, improve
air and water quality, and bring additional revenue to
farmers and rural communities."
The new report shows that by 2030, Illinois summers may
resemble those of Oklahoma or Arkansas in terms of average
temperature and rainfall. By the end of the century, however,
the Illinois summer climate will generally resemble that
of current east Texas. Maximum daily temperatures could
rise by 5 to 12 degrees in winter and 5 to 20 degrees
in summer in the Great Lakes region. Drought frequency
will likely increase due to the combination of higher
summer temperatures, evaporation, runoff from intense
rainfall events and decline in summer precipitation.
Of serious concern, according to the report, are changing
precipitation patterns. Crop production in the region
is already suffering from problems related to both excess
and insufficient moisture, and these problems will only
worsen as climate change progresses.
The combination of high heat and flooding is especially
lethal to corn and soybeans.
Increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere trap
heat and contribute to climate change. Increased CO2 and
earlier planting dates could boost soybean yields in the
central and northern portions of the region, but losses
are expected in southern areas. Soybean yield variability
is also expected to increase. Any increases may be offset
or negated by rising ozone concentrations that result
from human activities such as the application of nitrogen
fertilizers and burning of fossil fuels.
"Ozone is particularly damaging to soybeans and
horticultural crops, and soybean yields in the region
are already reduced approximately 25 percent by ozone
damage. But high heat and associated heat stress will
also reduce corn yields in the south and western parts
of the region," said Wander.
Climate changes will also affect the outlook for damaging
crop pests. Ranges for many pests, including bean leaf
beetles and corn borer, have already expanded northward.
Hot, dry summers may worsen yield losses due to corn rootworm
larvae. Excess moisture and humidity can increase the
frequency of gray leaf spot, crazy top, and smut in corn;
later in the century, drought will likely increase the
damage inflicted by soybean cyst nematodes.
Wander and Clemmer, Research Director for UCS' Clean
Energy Program, collaborated to develop policy recommendations
that would address heat-trapping emissions. They recommend
increased funding for energy efficiency and renewable-energy
"Over the past two years, the USDA has provided
$44 million from the Farm Bill to support 280 renewable-energy
and energy efficiency projects on American farms,"
said Clemmer. "Projects funded in the first year
alone will produce enough electricity to supply the annual
needs of 30,000 households while creating 1,300 new jobs
and greatly reducing carbon dioxide emissions."
Certain best practices in soil management such as no-till,
reduced tillage, and crop diversification including the
use of cover crops could enhance short-term soil carbon
Wander and Clemmer also recommend incentives to sequester
carbon on marginal lands and renewable energy standards
for electricity and transportation. Clemmer says competition
from renewable energy would also lower natural gas prices,
thereby lowering fertilizer prices.
Impacts on Agriculture report can be found at
www.ucsusa.org/greatlakes/glchallengereport.html at the
bottom of the page.
The comprehensive report on which the agriculture report
is based is titled Confronting Climate Change in the Great
Lakes Region and can be found at www.ucsusa.org/greatlakes/.