Global warming is such a massive, existential crisis that it can be overwhelming to try and contemplate just how much damage we've already done to our environment, not to mention how much we will see in the future. Because of this, I find examples like the following useful.
Jeff Spross at Think Progress reports on a study from Kansas State University which found that if temperature rise of just one degree Celsius of warming will cut wheat yields by 20 percent. And climate models predict we're on pace to see more than three times that much warming by the end of the century.
On climate change specifically, the researchers found that a one degree Celsius increase in temperatures for the area would cut wheat yields by 10.64 bushels per acre. Since the mean yield for 1985 to 2011 was 50.59 bushels per acre, that comes out to a 21 percent decrease. And three degrees of warming would cut yields by 32.36 bushels per acre, or a whopping 64 percent.
Spross puts the study in context:
But you get the gist: by 2080, global warming could reduce Kansas’ wheat yield by as much as two thirds. And that’s the optimistic scenario.
Alright! So, that's not good. But as dire as these findings are, isn't it (oddly) comforting to know more specifics about what global warming will do, instead of just having a general sense of future doom?
I got to thinking of this after reading Sami Grover's thoughtful post yesterday about the roles love and grief can play in inspiring environmental conservation.
As anyone who has ever loved and lost knows, the almost inevitable flip-side of love is grief. Until we start to truly grieve for the devastating losses we see all around us, I find it hard to imagine how we'll create the kind of cultural shifts we need.
Yet I am painfully aware that we are emotional creatures. And we form emotional relationships not just with each other, but with the world around us. (We even form emotional connections to our bloody iPhones!) So it's incumbent upon all of us who give a damn about sustainability to get to grips with what this crisis we are facing really means - and that means opening ourselves up to a whole world of hurt.
I think this is a smart observation.
I've spent most of my life in Kansas and Arkansas, so hearing about the Mayflower, Arkansas oil spill or the potential damage a factory hog farm may do to the Buffalo River or now how devastating global warming could be to farmers in Kansas, it makes these environmental crises hit literally closer to home. And as Sami notes, this makes it easier for me to recognize what we have to lose.