'America must take steps now' on climate, says Obama agriculture chief
Zack Colman - 06/05/13 03:01 PM ET
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday that climate change is “new and different than anything we’ve ever tackled” in the farming industry.
Vilsack said farmers are experiencing the fallout from more severe storms, invasive species, drought, flooding and wildfires that he said are occurring at a more rapid clip than ever before.
“So the fact is, across America, farmers and ranchers and forest landowners are seeing the beginning chapter of what will be a long-term challenge posed by a changing climate. This problem is not going to go away on its own. That's why America must take steps now to adapt,” Vilsack said at a Washington, D.C., event hosted by the National Press Club.
On the links to extreme weather, climate scientists generally avoid connecting singular events to climate change. They note, however, that its effects can intensify extreme weather events.
Vilsack said he wasn’t going to debate the science of climate change, but instead describe what he’s seen on farms across the country.
Rising temperatures have introduced invasive species to new regions, he said. And water shortages have forced farmers to look into more drought-resistant crops.
Severe weather patterns that include more floods and fires also threaten to destroy acres of land, Vilsack said. He noted a recent U.S. Forest Service study projected a doubling of acreage subject to wildfires by 2050.
The threat of deforestation, Vilsack noted, would further exacerbate climate change through destroying carbon dioxide-absorbing vegetation.
“Given the threats our forests face, we moved away from the timber wars of the past towards a shared vision that recognizes we must work together towards a common goal of forest restoration,” he said.
Vilsack said the Agriculture Department (USDA) has taken several steps to mitigate the effects of