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Scientists Ask Farm Bureau to Recognize Climate Change

A growing list of scientists have published an open letter to the American Farm Bureau asking the powerful agriculture lobby to rethink its position on global climate change.

According to the Farm Bureau, “there is no generally agreed upon scientific assessment on the exact impact or extent of carbon emissions from human activities, their impact on past decades of warming or how they will affect future climate changes.”

Dr. Jeffrey Gaffney, chair of the Department of Chemistry at UALR – the University of Arkansas at Little Rock-- and members of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a consortium of citizens and scientists, are urging environmental solutions to global warming and other climate changes. The group issued the open letter last week during the Farm Bureau’s annual meeting.

The scientists are urging environmental solutions to global warming and other climate changes. The group issued an open letter to Farm Bureau members asking to discuss the issue.

"As scientists concerned about the grave risks that climate change poses to the world and U.S. agriculture, we are disappointed that the American Farm Bureau has chosen to officially deny the existence of human-caused climate change when the evidence of it has never been clearer," the letter said.

“The idea is to open a dialogue to discuss the issue,” said Gaffney, whose research focus includes the study of natural system interactions with pollutants in air and groundwater chemistries and health impacts of air toxins and aerosols in the air.

Gaffney, lead scientist for the Department of Energy Atmospheric Science Program’s Megacity Aerosol Experiment - Mexico City (MAX-Mex), said the climate scientists recognized the concern farmers, business owners, and politicians have about the cost of strategies needed to make human activities sustainable. But ignoring the facts of how human practices since the Industrial Revolution have affected Earth’s systems puts at risk the long-term survival of human life.

“I have people say all the time, ‘I don’t believe in climate change,’” Gaffney said. “It’s not a religion that you can believe in or not. It’s a problem that we need to face.”

He and his research partner and wife, Dr. Nancy Marley, are currently focused on the role that atmospheric aerosols play in climate – particularly the role of carbonaceous aerosols and black carbon, or soots. Gaffney has been the lead scientist for the DOE’s Atmospheric Science Program’s Megacity Aerosol Experiment - Mexico City (MAX-Mex).

The field study was part of a larger collaboration with National Science Foundation, NASA, and Mexican agencies in the Megacity Initiative: Local and Global Research Observations (MILAGRO).

“The Earth system is dynamic and has constantly changed over its existence,” Gaffney said. “Climate change is happening and may occur at a rate that will lead to unprecedented impacts on agriculture and our environment and is the cause for concern that was stressed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We need to address the potential problem and consider solutions for a sustainable energy economy and environment.”

Dinosaurs were at the top of the food chain for hundreds of millions of years, much longer than human beings have been around, but climate change – probably caused by a giant meteor strike that threw tons of dust into the atmosphere or from volcanic activity – caused their demise. Man’s industrial revolution began more than 100 years ago and has led to an increasing combustion of coal and oil for energy for manufacturing, transportation, and all other aspects of modern life.

“We’re burning the non-renewable fossil fuels, which took hundreds of millions of years to produce, in a very short period on geologic time scales,” Gaffney said. He said the burning of Earth’s finite resources is unsustainable and is creating changes to our ecosystems and agricultural resources that may put human existence on the planet at risk.

Gaffney is attending a meeting this week with the DOE Atmospheric Systems Research program in Chicago to discuss and plan a major field study to be performed in the Ganges Valley in India next year as part of DOE’s research on climate change.

Joan I. Duffy | Newswise Science News
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