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Sierra Daily

Oct 14, 2011

Two Missing Words: Climate Change

Peanut butter on toastYou may have heard that peanut butter is going to be in short supply, and that's it's going to be more expensive. USA Today blames "a Southern drought and competition from more profitable crops." MSNBC blames "the extreme heat and drought in the South." NPR cites "heat and drought in Texas and the Southeast." AP mentions "[a ]miserable drought and scorching temperatures. . .in key peanut-producing states like Georgia and Texas."

A farmer for three decades, [farmer David] Bishop said he had never seen a drought that arrived as early as this year's. It took about three weeks to get his plants out of the ground, three times as long as normal. "It was so dry you didn't have any moisture in the soil to make the seed even rot," he said. "It just laid there in the soil. I've never seen that before."

What's missing from all these reports? Two little words: Climate change. In the September/October issue of Sierra, we published a map showing (at left) the number of days in which temperatures exceeded 100 degrees from 1961 to 1979 and (at right) the number of such days we're on track to reach by 2100.

SO11_100_DEGREE_DAYS_MAPS
It would seem newsworthy to add to one's report about the rising price of Skippy that the drought that's causing it is part of a long term, human-caused trend. And yet--crickets! The only outlets I could find that mentioned it were Climate Progress and Huffington Post:

The peanut crop is not the only commodity to suffer from severe weather conditions. French wine and Italian pasta are some other endangered national exports impacted by climate change. Last week, a report claimed chocolate could become a luxury item if farmers in West Africa didn't adapt to the warming climate. [Take a bow, Tara Kelly!]

Farmers in West Africa aren't the only ones who need to adapt to a warming climate--the nation's news media need to do their part as well.

--Paul Rauber

Image by iStock; graph by Peter and Maria Hoey (Source: U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2009)

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