Farmers are masters of managing risk.  They have to deal with variable weather, swings in the market, labor issues and many other factors on a daily basis.  A new report on fighting global warming released today explains that making choices to manage the risks of climate change is like insuring your property and crops from the worst possibilities.  Here’s a quote from Bloomberg on the new report (the link to the Bloomberg article can be found here):

“Dealing with climate change is a matter of managing risk. As the report says, it’s a question of insurance, which every voter understands. You insure your house against fire not because you are certain it will burn down but to guard against the risk that it might. Yes, climate change involves various costs known with reasonable confidence — but it also creates big risks. It’s only rational to insure against them.”

In the Southeast, observations have shown that temperatures here have risen in the past 40 years, but that over the longer time period temperatures in the SE have risen much less than the US as a whole.  (You can check out the trends in your own area by using the “Climate at a Glance” tool found here.)  This may be due in part to changes in land use from row crops to forests and partly due to our position on the southeast corner of the continent (southeast Asia shows similar trends).  Most of the rest of the US shows warming trends in both daytime and nighttime temperatures, and in urban and rural locations.  Rainfall in the Southeast has remained relatively constant over the past century, but more of the rain is coming in high-intensity storms with longer dry spells in between, which may cause more stress to plants in soils that do not have good water-holding capacity.  Increasingly, farmers are going to using cover crops as a way to prevent erosion and hold moisture in the soils.

Changes we have already seen in our climate have had mixed impacts on agriculture in the Southeast.  Warming temperatures have lengthened the growing season for crops but also for pests and diseases.  Less frequent killing frosts have allowed some insect pests to overwinter, increasing their ability to harm the crops, but have also allowed for the development of new crops like olives and citrus in some areas that have not had a warm enough climate to allow them to survive in the past.  Irrigation, one of our most effective risk management techniques) has allowed farmers to protect their crops from water shortages in many parts of the Southeast.

To read the full report on risk management and climate change, click here.