Food Security, Forests At Risk Under Administration’s USDA

By Bobby Magill February 7th, 2017 see full article here

U.S. food security, forest health, and the ability of farmers to respond to climate change are all at risk if [the President’s] pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture brings climate change skepticism to the agency, agricultural researchers and environmental law experts say.  …[President’s] nominee for Agriculture secretary — former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who in 2007 resorted to prayer as a strategy to deal with a severe drought Georgia was enduring….

….Established climate science shows that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels are quickly warming the planet, leading to melting polar ice caps, rising seas and more frequent extreme weather. Sixteen of the world’s 17 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2000 — a level of global warming leading to more frequent, more intense and more deadly heat waves and extreme drought….

…If the USDA dismisses the threat of climate change, “then there is reason for grave concern,” said Michael P. Hoffman, executive director of the Cornell University Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, which focuses on sustainable agriculture. “Those who grow our food in the U.S. are facing more extreme weather, more flooding and drought, more high temperature stress — in general more risk due to more variability, more uncertainty,” Hoffmann said. “It will be a travesty if USDA cuts back on its support of climate change research and education.”…

…The USDA manages 193 million acres of national forest and grasslands, including the rainforests of Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Those forests act as large “carbon sinks” because they store more carbon from the atmosphere in tree trunks, roots and soil than any other type of forest in the country. Altogether, America’s national forests offset and store about 14 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions each year, according to the U.S. Forest Service….

…Firefighting made up 16 percent of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget in 1995, but as climate change led to longer and more severe fire seasons, the share of the agency’s budget dedicated to fighting fires ballooned to 50 percent by 2015 — roughly $1.2 billion. Fire seasons now average 78 days longer each year than in 1970, according to the Forest Service….