Growing Returns

Why does the West keep burning? Here are 3 key factors.

“Climate change sucks.” This was the text I sent to a friend last Monday as we griped about the many fires burning throughout the West — from Oregon and Washington to Idaho and my home state of California. The fires have filled the air with visible smoke and invisible fine particulate matter making it unsafe to spend any significant time outside.

My quick text exchange was not the right forum for a detailed articulation of the many causes of this year’s heavy fire season. Neither is the politicized verbal tennis match that has taken off on Twitter and in the news.

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Measuring irrigated water use has been a challenge for decades. This new tool will change that.

Over my nearly 30 years of working on water issues in the West, I have repeatedly thought there has got to be a better way to measure how much water is used to grow the food we eat. This data is surprisingly complex, and up until now, it has been expensive to calculate.

That’s why it’s difficult to contain my excitement as this “better way” comes to fruition in the form of a new web platform called OpenET that EDF is developing with NASA, Google, the Desert Research Institute, the U.S. Geological Society and dozens of other partners.

Using publicly available data and satellite imagery, OpenET will for the first time make data on how much water crops use widely accessible at no to low cost to farmers and water managers large and small in 17 western states. OpenET will go live next year. Read More »

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Financial leaders release climate risk report calling for agricultural resilience

A report released today by a subcommittee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System, examines the threat that increasingly extreme and volatile weather poses to the stability of financial markets, including U.S. agricultural markets. Representatives from EDF served on the 35-member panel.

The report found climate risks pose a wide range of threats to U.S. agriculture — including heat stress on farmworkers, livestock and crops, soil and water quality degradation, more frequent supply chain disruptions and productivity declines. Read More »

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How states can finance coastal resilience before the next disaster

As climate change drives more intense storms, hurricane-related costs in the United States have increased 1,100% since 1980, and the population of counties prone to hurricane damage has increased at least 22% faster than the overall U.S. population has grown.

State governments must prioritize rebuilding better and investing in climate resilience now to avoid the skyrocketing costs of future disasters. Every $1 invested to mitigate a disaster saves $6 in recovery. Read More »

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3 steps for agricultural lenders to mitigate climate risk and finance resilience

Farmers in the U.S. are facing severe challenges including poor economic conditions, extreme weather and disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. These risks also impact farmers’ financial partners, including agricultural lenders.

While some of these risks are difficult to anticipate and plan for, there are growing opportunities and resources available for farmers and their lenders to better understand their vulnerabilities related to climate change — and take steps to build resilience.

A new report, Financing Resilient Agriculture: How Agricultural Lenders Can Reduce Climate Risk and Help Farmers Build Resilience, finds that lenders can reduce risk by supporting farmer investments in conservation practices like no-till and cover crops that are known to build climate resilience.

This report provides a path forward for lenders to support a more productive, profitable and resilient agricultural system.

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A new kind of supply chain initiative will help pollinators and farmers alike

California produces the majority of the world’s almonds, with nearly 1.53 million acres dedicated to almond orchards. However, less than 20,000 of those acres are bee-friendly verified with pollinator habitat and reduced pesticide use.

As bees and other important pollinator populations decline sharply, it is imperative to change the trajectory of pollinator and biodiversity loss in key agricultural landscapes — and one food company is launching an effort to do just that. Read More »

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Golf courses planted 1,000 acres to save the monarch butterfly. Here’s why.

In 2017, my EDF colleagues and I partnered with Audubon International to team up with a seemingly unlikely ally in pollinator conservation — golf courses.

Together, we launched Monarchs in the Rough, a program that partners with golf courses to restore monarch butterfly and other pollinator habitat in out-of-play areas. Read More »

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Corn farmers endorsed climate policies. Here’s what you need to know.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), which represents the interests of 300,000 U.S. corn farmers, recently approved more than a dozen climate policies as part of the policy positions its members vote on twice a year. In doing so, NCGA affirmed that climate change is real, and farmers are part of the solution. Read More »

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Don’t let funding dry up for safe and affordable drinking water

Two important water reports were released recently that address the lack of safe and affordable drinking water in some California communities, despite our state’s position as an environmental leader. Read More »

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From Louisiana to New York, coastal leaders come together to build climate resilience

As extreme weather takes a greater toll, states are creating a new government position to confront climate challenges and keep residents safe. Nearly one dozen states have hired Chief Resilience Officers (CROs) in various areas of government, including the governor’s office, state departments of environment or state departments of public safety.

These officers are charged with improving collaboration internally across government and externally with the public — and to have a coordinated approach to securing and spending federal disaster resources.

CROs are often working urgently to respond to previous disasters while also shaping forward-looking strategies to build a more resilient future for their state. With such a high-stress, high-stakes job, it’s essential that these leaders collaborate and learn from one another.

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