The Climate is Changing! What are You Gonna Do?

The Climate is Changing! What are You Gonna Do?

Do you believe climate change is impacting the way you grow and harvest crops? Seems like a fair and relevant question given the weather extremes Florida farmers have been taken to in recent times. And if that question looks or sounds familiar, it should.

Advertisement has polled readers multiple times about the hot (and sometimes frosty) topic. I’ve also touched on climate change in this forum before. But, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times we stoke the fire, the response is always robust and passionate compared to other industry-related surveys we present.

The most recent pulse check was just a few months ago. Again, the audience delivered. A resounding 65% of respondents to that very question above answered in the affirmative; 28% said no; and the remaining 7% weren’t sure. Ah, there are always holdouts that might need more climate change convincing.

Well, NASA does offer some compelling statistics on the matter:

  • Carbon dioxide levels in the air are at their highest in 650,000 years
  • 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001
  • In 2012, Arctic sea ice shrank to the lowest extent on record
  • Global average sea level has risen 7 inches over the last 100 years. (By the way, this might not sound like much, unless you’ve witnessed the streets of Miami’s South Beach getting swamped during King Tides.)

The government agency goes on in great detail about the how, why, and what regarding the planet’s fluctuating vital signs. Add to that, the recently released Fourth Annual Climate Assessment includes a foreboding forecast of “reduced agricultural productivity.” But, are words and graphics on a screen or paper enough? Real-world examples are what resonate the loudest for those with something at stake. That noticeable ringing in your ears could be from having to rebuild your business for the third year in a row following major hurricane-inflicted damage. “All it takes is one …” Yep, one every year.

The nagging pain in your neck could be from a totally different source of stress. No doubt, for many reasons beyond just weather, Florida growers are having to adjust their cropping systems. Shifting sands aside, there’s opportunity in change. Hops are still hot and growing hotter. Do I hear any votes for vanilla? How about bamboo? Can I get a high-five for hemp?

These are just a few of the newer, cooler alternative crops we’re seeing Florida growers try — thanks in large part to our unique climate, which (yes) continues to change in more ways than one. There are many factors at play. We should embrace the change. It’s a solid action plan — the only one really — especially as we barrel toward another new year of possibility.