Crops - and pocketbooks - taking hit due to global warming

J.P. Leous

Whether you buy your summer corn at the supermarket or a roadside stand, your  pocketbook will feel a pinch from global warming, according to a recent report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Three key U.S. crops are at risk from rising temperatures due to global warming, with corn, cotton and soybean yields expected to drop 30 to 36 percent under the study’s most conservative warming scenarios. The most rapid scenarios predict up to 82 percent drops in crop yield.

Upshot? Prices for these commodities, and the myriad products they go into, will go up. Don’t like corn on the cob? Don’t snack on edamame? Don’t sport Fruit of the Loom? Doesn’t matter. From livestock feed to cooking oils to fiber to ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup, it’s hard to think of a day when you aren’t touched in some way by these three crops. In fact, U.S-grown corn and soybeans make up 41 and 38 percent of the world market, respectively.

Food for thought:

And it’s a little more worrisome than just prices at the store: What happens if the places we’ve come to rely on for these (and other) crops are no longer suitable due to the effects of global warming? What happens if, during this same time, historic water levels are no longer available (already an issue across the country)? Do we look to relocate millions of acres of farmland? Do we rely on genetically modified crops? What does it mean for our cherished public lands if we have to triage concerns over food production, species protection, water rights, public health and so on?

The costs of inaction on global warming are potentially in the trillions — many times the costs of taking strong, early, effective action now to head off the worst effects of global warming. There is still time. How shall we use it?

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