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Midwestern agriculture stands to lose with climate change skeptics in charge

Read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Story by Tobias Winright here.

FILE – In this July 21, 2016 file photo, the sun sets beyond visitors to Liberty Memorial as the temperature hovers around 100 degrees in Kansas City, Mo. A new U.S. report says last year’s weather was far more extreme or record breaking than anything approaching normal. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, released its annual state of the climate 2016 report, highlighting numerous records including hottest year, highest sea level and lowest sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctica. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Agriculture is central to Missouri’s economy. In 2016, agriculture, forestry and related industries comprised 9.3 percent of the state’s economy and 10.5 percent of its jobs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the value of sales of soybeans alone exceeded $8.4 billion. But much of this could be threatened by global warming.

Recently a draft report on climate change written by scientists from 13 federal agencies was made public. The report describes that average temperatures in the U.S. have risen notably since the 1980s, and concludes that human activities are “primarily responsible” for observed climate change. The report also warns that Americans are already experiencing the effects of climate change.

In the Midwest, annual average temperatures have risen more than a degree since the period of 1901-1960. If carbon pollution continues, temperatures in the Midwest may rise an additional 5 degrees by 2050 and 10 degrees by 2100. This would have a catastrophic impact on agriculture and the availability of food for people around the world. According to one study by scientists in the United States, China and Europe, a global temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius is projected to result in a decline in global wheat yield of between 4.1 percent and 6.4 percent.

 So it is worrisome that President Donald Trump nominated last month a climate change skeptic to the USDA’s top science position. Sam Clovis — who is trained as an economist and not a scientist — could become the next undersecretary for research, education and economics. In that role, he would be responsible for ensuring that the USDA is guided by the best available science from the nation’s leading experts.

Climate change skeptics are in denial. According to NASA, “97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities … (and) leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”

In 2014, however, Clovis said about climate change: “It’s not proven; I don’t think there’s any substantive information available to me that doesn’t raise as many questions as it does answers. So I’m a skeptic.”

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