This visible image of the winter storm over the U.S. South and East Coast was taken by NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite on Feb. 12. NASA/NOAA GOES Project.
Look at a satellite photo of the continental United States these past couple of months and you’ll quickly notice that the country has an identity crisis. Roughly two-thirds of the nation is covered in ice and snow, while the rest suffers oppressive heat and drought.
As much as anything, that’s a serious economic problem. California and Texas are America’s first- and second-largest economies, by far, and they’re both in the hot zone. For the Golden State, it’s especially alarming, since California is the nation’s biggest agricultural producer. More than 8 of every 10 almonds in the world are grown in California, and that’s just one of the state’s many cash crops imperiled by lack of water. About 40 percent of the rice grown in California is exported to Japan, Korea and other nations.
And it’s not just heat, but wildly fluctuating temperatures that threaten the state’s income. A cold snap in December destroyed $441 million worth of fruit.
President Obama is not ignoring the matter. On Friday he toured a dry field with Gov. Jerry Brown and promised $100 million in aid to farmers. More importantly, Obama pointed out that there is a root cause of such devastation that cannot be ignored, as Reuters reports:
“We have to be clear: a changing climate means that weather-related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms, floods are potentially going to be costlier and they’re going to be harsher,” he said.
Droughts have existed for eons, he said, “but scientific evidence shows that a changing climate is going to make them more intense… Unless and until we do more to combat carbon pollution that causes climate change, this trend is going to get worse.”
While it’s nice that farmers will get some assistance, let’s try to remember that in most cases we’re talking about huge agribusinesses and not Old MacDonald. There’s also something perverse about trying to maintain California’s mega growing capacity, which has always come at the expense of the Colorado River, while the planet undergoes permanent, man-made change. And, lest we forget about the human element, California is home to people, not just crops, and we should be as concerned about sustainable living and drinking water as we are about the lemons.
Still, it’s nice to know our friends and family freezing on the other side of the continent might not see as high a spike in food prices. We are, after all, connected.
—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer