More than half of the United States has been declared a disaster area due to an ongoing record drought. Currently, 1584 counties, 50.3% of all counties in the US, are drought disaster areas.
Over much of July, record heat and dryness resulted in expanding and continuing drought conditions for much of the US. These record conditions are severely impacting the nation’s agricultural industry. According to the US drought monitor, 37% of the US soybean crop and 48% of the US corn crop were rated in poor to very poor condition. Livestock has also experienced severe impacts with 66% of the nation’s hay and 73% of the nation’s cattle acreage experiencing drought.
According to the US Drought Monitor, about 63% of the US landmass is currently undergoing drought conditions.
For years, climate scientists have warned that human-caused global warming would result in intensified drought conditions for the US. With drought conditions occurring across wide swaths of the US for the past 7 years, it appears that this future is now. The current drought is one of the worst on record and threatens to intensify. It follows on the heels of a massive and debilitating drought in Texas last year. It is the second major drought to impact the southeast in five years. Unfortunately, weather forecasts show this drought is likely to continue through Halloween. If such an event materializes, the current severe impacts will grow far, far worse.
Though it is normal for extreme droughts to occur over long time-scales, it is not normal that they occur with such frequency and such recurring severity. Most climate scientists now agree the current drought was made worse by climate change. A more clear statement is that the current drought is a product of human-caused climate change. What would have likely been a hot, dry period, has become an extreme event due the effects of added atmospheric heating.
Stating this obvious fact should be something we encourage. It is impossible to deal with a problem unless it is first validated. But, considering our situation, it is only responsible to make a concerted call, not for panic, but for action.
Strong changes to energy policy, major support for alternative fuels for transportation and electricity (wind, solar, biofuels, plug in hybrid electric vehicles and pure electric vehicles), a dedicated program of cut-backs for fossil fuel use (coal, oil, natural gas, tar sands), and national funding for climate emergency mitigation will be necessary to deal with this crisis. The goal will be to prevent future, worse disasters while working to mitigate the disasters that are currently under way.
Given the current state of the world’s climate, without prevention and mitigation, we are likely to experience continued and worsening instances similar to this drought in the future. Regional and national droughts will continue to intensify, with more extreme events becoming more frequent and more intense. Even with prevention and mitigation, we can expect a period of difficulty, but with proper policy measures, these difficulties should be manageable.
It is worth noting the amazing degree of short-sightedness business and political leaders pushing for expanded fossil fuel use express. This complete lack of responsibility and leadership in pursuit of short-term profit and political gain, if continued, will result in nothing short of the United States losing its position as an agricultural superpower. It will also have severe and devastating impacts on both national and world-wide food security.
So let this be an appeal to these leaders — the oil barons, the coal barons, the gas barons, and the politicians who support them — the time for change is well past. You may continue your attempts at dominance and short-sighted profit, but you do so by waging a campaign of devastation and degradation on the rest of us. This is unconscionable. It must stop now.