Climate Change Survival

It’s another season of local flooding, see-saw temperatures, western wild fires and severe storms to the south. Locally, we are hearing some farmers around Simcoe County lament the losses that they are, and will be, suffering this year.

Now, a new study published in the journal, Science, predicts that “unmitigated climate change will damage the poorest-third of US counties to the tune of 20% of total income. The regions that will be hit the hardest in the US over the coming years economically will be primarily in the South and in the lower Midwest. In other words, economic centers will be likely to move northwards, leaving the hotter, southern parts of the US impoverished …”.

(Perhaps not wanting to wait, Missouri just voted to lower the minimum wage in St. Louis by 23% from $10/hour to $7.70/hour, but that’s another story.) 

“Overall, the new study predicts that for every degree Fahrenheit (~0.55° Celsius) increase in average global temperatures, the US economy [$18 trillion in 2015] loses around 0.7% of its Gross Domestic Product — with “each degree of warming costing more than the last”.”

We have to wonder about the cumulative on-going effect this may have on this side of the border. The U.S. exports about $25 billion of agri-food products to Canada (2015 data). The top 5 import categories from the U.S. are fruits and nuts; vegetables; prepared vegetables, fruit & nuts; meat; beverages. Which country or economy will be more effective at mitigating trend? Will more agricultural production move to controlled environments? Will increasing numbers of people be unable to afford even basic food commodities? How severely might we be affected by unpredictable, possibly catastrophic, supply disruption?

While this study examines possible impacts extending to the end of this century, it also concludes that, “the near- and mid-term economic effects of anthropogenic climate change on the US will be profoundly negative. This is even when some of the most negative potential effects and feedback loops of climate change aren’t taken into consideration.”

Scientists meticulously measured “the impacts of climate change the way the insurance industry or an investor would, comparing risks and rewards.” We can count the dollars but who is counting the tears? The promotional slogan, Farmers Feed Cities, was retired in 2014 but may it always be so.