TUPPER: Whatever happened to climate change?We’ve just stopped talking about it, and I suppose that’s because of the economic crisis.
By: Seth Tupper, The Daily Republic
If you followed the last few presidential elections closely and then went into a cave or a coma before emerging to witness our two recent presidential debates, you’d probably wonder what happened to climate change. Given the previously ubiquitous issue’s sudden disappearance from public discourse, you’d probably figure it was solved.
It wasn’t. We’ve just stopped talking about it, and I suppose that’s because of the economic crisis.
But climate change is still with us. We published a stark reminder of that Wednesday from Bloomberg News.
The story indicated that the corn belt isn’t just moving west, as we often observe here in South Dakota when we travel west of the Missouri River and see corn in places it couldn’t be grown before. According to the Bloomberg story, the perceived westward expansion of the corn belt is something of an illusion. The corn belt isn’t moving west so much as it is north, with the westward expansion tumbling out of the larger northward expansion.
That rings true, and we know it by looking around us. The story quoted an expert who said that because of the northward swelling of the corn belt, “the number of rail cars, the number of silos, the amount of loading capacity” is increasing in areas that were formerly beyond the corn belt’s northern terminus. For evidence of that, just look to the Kimball/White Lake area, where a nearly $40 million rail-fed grain elevator on steroids has sprung up suddenly from the prairie. Similar facilities are popping up elsewhere in the northern Great Plains.
The story also noted that while Kansas farmers sowed their fewest corn acres in three years this past spring, corn acreage 700 miles to the north in the Canadian province of Manitoba has nearly doubled over the past decade.
And then there’s this: “September was the 331st consecutive month in which temperatures worldwide topped the 20th-century average, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center said Monday.”
Consider that again and let it sink in: 331 consecutive months of above-average temperatures. Meanwhile, we’re dealing with the worst drought since 1954, which came suddenly after two of the wettest years on record.
Folks, those are the hallmarks of climate change. If you’re still in denial, you need to get in touch with reality.
Given all these ongoing developments, it’s terribly disappointing to hear no talk whatsoever about climate change in the presidential or any other campaign. Politicians this year are focusing mainly on the economy, and they probably should if they want to get elected. But climate change hasn’t gone on hiatus while we deal with our economic concerns. Instead, the forces behind our evolving climate have seemingly taken advantage of our diverted attention to stealthily transform the world we thought we knew.
What’s causing the climate to change? There is an abundance of evidence to suggest human influence and other evidence to suggest natural processes. Likely it’s both. We should do what we can to minimize the human side of the equation — on that, we should all simply agree. If you don’t believe human activity is contributing to climate change, then you shouldn’t mind if the rest of us try to reduce pollution. It won’t hurt you to breathe cleaner air.
Beyond that, our leaders need to expand their focus past the trifling sound-bite crises that arise every day in our 24/7 news world and start pondering anew the real issue of climate change. It is already provoking wide-scale changes in our agricultural economy. Pastures are being plowed up and converted to crop land. Farmers are abandoning traditional crops and growing different ones. Accelerating drought and flood cycles are driving enormous expenditures in federally subsidized safety nets for farmers and ranchers.
Meanwhile, our political leaders are largely ignoring the situation. That’s because avoidance is often an effective way for them to escape responsibility. Many things that seem important today simply vanish from public concern days or weeks later as people and the news cycle move on.
But that won’t work with climate change. If we stick our head in the sand on this one, we’re likely to get burned.