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Cook Organic not the Planet Campaign

Many Farming Communities Think Global Warming Won't Hurt Them. They're Wrong.

You might think a little global warming is good for farming. Longer, warmer growing seasons and more carbon dioxide (CO2)-what plant wouldn't love that? The agricultural industry basically takes that stance. But global warming's effects on agriculture would actually be quite complicated-and mostly not for the better.

Based on rationales from "climate change isn't real" to "it will increase crop yields so it's a good thing" to "it will cost us money" most of the country's farming sectors along with their elected officials have staunchly opposed taking action to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Even after securing several significant concessions-including an exemption from emission caps-congressional members from agricultural states mostly voted against the Waxman-Markey bill (a.k.a. the American Clean Energy and Security Act). But if people who work in agriculture are not worried about the effects of climate change on their livelihood, they should be. "The agricultural industry is really reading the science wrong here," says Nathanael Greene, director of renewable-energy policy at the Natural Resource Defense Council.

It's true that some crops will prosper on a warmer planet, but the key word there is "some." According to a 2007 government report, higher CO2 levels and longer growing seasons will increase yields for fruit growers in the Great Lakes region. But many major American crops, such as sorghum, sugar cane and corn already use CO2 so efficiently that more of it probably won't make much difference to them.