Views on climate change range anywhere from a) it’s a hoax and complete nonsense to b) we’re only a few years away from climate-induced Armageddon. And for those who believe climate change is occurring, there also appear to be two predominant schools of thought: one group believes it is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is part of a millennia-long pattern of warming and cooling, while the other believes it is the result of an increase in man-made greenhouse gases flooding the atmosphere.
Even the responses to a poll question on our website (To what degree do you believe climate change will impact global grain and oilseed production over the next 20 years?) show a wide range of opinions, with 38% saying it will have a severe impact, 30% saying it will have a moderate impact, 9% saying it will have a slight impact and 23% saying it will have no impact.
That about one-third of the respondents believe climate change will have little to no impact on grain production over the next two decades is a bit surprising, given the mounting evidence that shows climate change, whether it’s due to greenhouse gas emissions or some other phenomena, is leading to more volatile weather.
While there is a consensus among climatologists (although not unanimous) that the rise in the earth’s average annual temperature is man-made, what isn’t as clear is the degree and the specific nature of the impact from a warming earth in the coming years. Hysterical rhetoric from politicians like U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declaring that “the world will end in 12 years” or a UN official warning in 1989 that “entire nations will be wiped off the earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000,” are not helpful. When these brash and irrational predictions fail to come to pass, it only emboldens those who think climate change should be completely ignored.
It should not be ignored, particularly as this phenomenon relates to agriculture and, more specifically, grain production as well as grain processing.
A recent study by University of Arkansas researchers warns that up to 60% of the world’s current wheat-growing areas could experience simultaneous, prolonged drought by the end of the century unless steps are taken to mitigate climate change. The study offered solutions to lessen the impact on wheat, the world’s largest rain-fed crop in terms of harvested area. Their recommendations included using drought and heat-adapted varieties; shifting harvest to earlier or later in the season to reduce yield losses; and managing soil in a way that builds up soil water for the next crop.
Meanwhile, grain processing companies should examine their own carbon footprint and look for ways to reduce it in a way that is also economically feasible. Equipment manufacturers, for instance, are coming out with energy-efficient technology that provides a relatively quick return on investment while reducing energy consumption. A well-defined strategy that includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions in an economically viable manner as well as finding ways to maximize crop yields in extreme weather climates are steps that should be taken regardless of one’s view regarding the underlying cause of climate change.