Climate change continues to be a hot topic in the media, but many aren’t aware of how it could personally impact them. A Purdue professor enlightened his audience at Pfendler Hall Tuesday morning on the impact it could have.
Jeffrey Dukes is the associate professor of forestry and natural resources and biological sciences at Purdue. His research regarding climate change has been recognized in many publications. His primary areas of interest are plants, microbes and the consequences of climate change on the atmosphere.
Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body put together by the United Nations, released a new report. The panel conducts assessments every six to seven years. These assessments take stock of the science that has been done during that time period, and answer the question, “What do we know now?” The assessments represent a balanced view of the science presented, as all countries must agree on the content. Dukes was a reviewer for the IPCC during the previous year.
One of the main concerns in the new report is the issue of future crop production.
“There’s a lot of evidence that crop production will decline; at least production of some crops in some places. That’s one thing that could be important, because many crops have temperature thresholds,” Dukes said. “There’s also evidence that some natural species will be unlikely to keep pace with climate change. Essentially, the area of land that has suitable climate for a given species is going to be moving with climate change.”
This tendency for the area of suitable land to move is known as “climate velocity.” Climate velocity is highest in areas with flat land, such as the area in which Purdue is located. Dukes said that species such as long-lived trees are unable to change their ranges rapidly. The carbon dioxide is also raising the acidity of the Earth’s oceans, which could put many ocean species in danger.
Decreased crop production could have major implications for food supply.
“The effect on food supply would particularly be in poorer regions of the world that don’t have much capacity to adapt. Also, if there is political unrest, this makes it difficult for food distribution,” Dukes said.
This issue also concerns College of Agriculture freshman Peyton Spreacker.
“The biggest implication of continued harm would probably be not being able to feed the people of the planet,” Spreacker said.
Dukes explained that there are two main categories that we need to take into account when considering how to deal with climate change.
First, humans need to decrease the amount of climate change. This involves reducing the carbon dioxide released into the environment, as well as using more efficient energy; we need to lessen our reliance on fossil fuels. We also need to reduce deforestation.
The second category is getting ready for climate change and reducing our exposure and vulnerability. For example, natural disasters are becoming more extreme and more common due to the changing climate, Dukes said. We need to ensure that our preparation is adequate for these more frequent events. These steps will help save our planet from severe consequences.
“The extremes that come from climate change will be the things we can feel. Those extremes have come historically, but now they are likely to become more extreme and more frequent. Being prepared for them is a good thing,” Dukes said.