2016 Candidates Need Working Knowledge of Climate Change – DTN

    Generally, an out-of-state U.S. senator showing up in Iowa before a mid-term election means he or she is testing the waters for a presidential run over the next two years. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island trekked around Iowa this week, but dismissed that he wants to live in his namesake.

    “I’m totally not running for president,” Whitehouse said. “It has absolutely nothing to do with that.”

    The two-term Democrat did note Iowa is the gateway to the presidency in 2016. Because of that, Whitehouse said he wants to lay the groundwork so that any candidate running for president, Democrat or Republican, has to be credible in acknowledging the science and need to act on climate change.

    “People who are close to this see it,” he said. “Climate change is not something in the future. It is something that is happening now. I think we are close to winning on climate change.”

    Whitehouse compared the challenges of farmers facing droughts and floods to fishermen in New England who are seeing their traditional catch disappear because of changing oceanic conditions.

    “Farmers who kicked around in drought-dried fields aren’t much different than fishermen pulling up fish they don’t normally see,” Whitehouse said. “They both understand that something is different and if it gets worse, it is going to get bad. There is a very different atmosphere out there right now, a different feeling. That’s why I am so optimistic right now that we will get something done on climate.”

    Whitehouse said he think it is possible climate legislation could come forward in 2015. Existing power plants will already be under EPA regulations, which will change the minds of corporations looking to offset technology costs. Whitehouse already has legislation that would set a price for a ton of carbon that large companies would have to pay for greenhouse gas emissions. “The big power plants, you want them to begin paying a price for that,” he said.

    Yet, control of the Senate is a toss-up at this point with some forecasts showing Republicans taking the chamber this fall. Whitehouse nonetheless upped the ante, so to speak, by saying he believes Republicans will have to shift their positions on climate change. Whitehouse based that view on polls showing younger Republicans believe their party elders are out of touch with science.

    “I believe in my heart in 2016, the Republicans cannot elect a denier (of climate change) as president,” he said.

    Whitehouse chose Shenandoah to visit on Wednesday because a Rhode Island company, BioProcessAlgae, is partnering with ethanol producer Green Plains Renewable Energy to capture carbon dioxide emissions from Green Plains’ ethanol plant in Shenandoah to create algae that now is being tested for industrial uses and fish food. Green Plains has plans to expand its algae operation. The process reduces carbon dioxide emissions from the ethanol plant by 30%.

    Whitehouse toured Iowa with Rob Hogg, a Democratic state senator from Cedar Rapids, who said climate change turned from being an abstraction to a real crisis for him with the 2008 flooding in eastern Iowa that caused $5.4 billion in damages just in Cedar Rapids alone. He became involved in the climate debate and recently published a book, “America’s Climate Century.”

    “When you have unprecedented flooding, it has a way of making an impact,” Hogg said. “It’s real lives, real property and real people at stake.”

    New efforts to highlight climate science are coming on several fronts. The American Association for the Advancement of Science launched a website earlier this week called “What We Know” to point out the evidence on human-caused climate change, the impacts and need for action.

    The Obama administration on Wednesday rolled out a new Climate Data Initiative to “leverage the Federal Government’s extensive, freely-available climate-relevant data resources to stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in support of national climate-change preparedness.” That include another website,

    As part of the administration’s effort, several federal agencies and partner organizations are offering more accessible information issues such as the risks of flooding and sea-level rises.

    “I haven’t had a chance to log into it or look at it firsthand, but it’s a good step because getting real information out up against the polluter-paid propaganda is very important,” Whitehouse said.

    The efforts by the administration and scientific community come as the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is expected to roll out its latest report at the end of the month in Japan. That analysis will focus on adaptation challenges and strategies.

    The U.N. adaptation report is expected to emphasize problems agriculture will face in the future. A leaked draft of that U.N. report last fall stated median yields for major crops will decline globally by as much as 2% per decade throughout the rest of the century. These yield declines will happen as demand grows by an average of 14% per decade until 2050. The biggest production problem will be yield variability from year-to-year.

    Those findings are comparable to a new analysis released Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change that showed globally that yields for corn, rice and wheat would begin to decline after 2030. The analysis looked at more than 1,700 published simulations to assess how climate changes will affect yields. Netra Chhetri, a professor with the Global Institute for Sustainability at Arizona State University, said current adaptation strategies such as changing planting dates, switching crop varieties or using more irrigation water may not be enough to deal with increased weather volatility.

    “The type of adaptation that will be needed in the future may be much more different than what we now know,” Chhetri said in a phone interview. “The areas where we grow wheat might not be suitable any longer. We may have to change the crop completely. The incremental adaptation that is happening in the moment in some parts of society may not be sufficient for the kind of magnitude of changes that are likely to occur in the future.”

    Chhetri noted farmers in the U.S. are buffered because of the country’s wealth, which translates into technology, infrastructure, real-time information and institutions to support their production. Farmers in developing countries don’t have those support tools.

    “The challenges of changing climate and population growth are much more serious in developing countries,” he added.

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