Corn: Global Warming's latest canary

Greg Harman

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When it comes to Global Warming, it seems that everything is the “canary in the coalmine.”

One week, we're told that as the Artic sea ice goes, so goes the world. The next, drought-stricken Australia is the planetary harbinger. Now, it's corn.

Before we could even wash off the ink of our Global Warming feature (“Last Chance for a Slow Dance?”), significantly void of any canary references, we might add, the irascible Environment Texas agitants were welding together their own canary cage around Texas-grown corn, warning that:

Global warming could cost corn growers in Texas $37 million a year â?¦ Texas ranks 11th for highest damage estimates. Nationwide the damages to America's #1 crop total more than $1.4 billion annually. Environment Texas expects these costs to go up unless Congress and the President take decisive action to repower America with clean energy and reduce global warming pollution.

While corn enjoys relatively cool temperatures, climate change related to human industry is expected to raise global temperatures by several degrees this century. Other projections have Texas â?? and the entire Southwest and much of Central America â?? entering a state of “permanent” drought within a few years (if it hasn't already).

The group's rap-worthy “Hotter Fields, Lower Yields” concludes:

Corn, America's largest harvest, is the canary in the coal mine for productivity losses America's farmers could see from global warming. In the coming decades, American corn growers and other farmers will face increasing temperatures, more severe storms, spreading pests, and higher levels of air pollution.

The report is a reminder for South Texans to put their calls in to San Antonio Representative Charlie Gonzalez and demand the toughest possible climate legislation out of the House Committee on Energy & the Environment in Congress.

ET even has a section of their report dedicated to how climate legislation could actually be good for farms â?? even if we can't slow the warming already locked in by current greenhouse levels.

Not that Texas could tackle global warming on behalf of the nation if Washington fails (we can't even get a statement in support of science from the Governer's office), but it's remarkable that both San Antonio and it's grudgingly greening utility, City Public Service Energy (whose green changes will be featured in a new story in the a.m.), are on pace with Environment Texas' concluding action points.

The report urges utilities to “obtain at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and to reduce their energy use by 15 percent by 2020.” CPS has already pledged to use 20 percent renewables by 2020 while reducing energy usage by more than 700 megawatts.

Environment Texas also calls for all new buildings to reach zero energy use by 2030. San Antonio's City Council adopted new building codes earlier this year to require all new homes constructed in 2030 to be “carbon-neutral.”

Makes you feel like you're living in Seattle or something, no? Now how do we get our damned solar and weatherization rebates back? And how about taking this low-energy, clean-tech revolution on the road to our South Texas neighbors?

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