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Ignore global warming

Agriculture.com Staff 02/10/2016 @ 10:25pm

One e-mail suggested visiting the Web page of Senator James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (www.epw.senate.gov/minority). Look for the report, "More than 700 international scientists dissent over man-made global warming claims," he said.

I did. It links to an interesting debate among scientists, many of them geologists. Geology, one of my favorite subjects, has fascinating and scary examples of climate change.

About 635 million years ago, most of our planet was covered with ice, what geologists call "snowball earth." Much later, 251 million years ago, after most of the earth's coal was formed but before dinosaurs arrived, the earth was so hot that 95% of all life was wiped out. Many species of fish, giant amphibians, and primitive reptiles vanished.

That's the most spectacular evidence that the earth's climate is always changing. I have no doubt that most of the skeptical geologists are sincere. But you have to remember that many geologists work for oil companies, who have a lot to lose if Congress passes legislation aimed at slowing global warming. Big oil is also an industry with record profits that it can spend to sow confusion.

Last January, EOS (a publication of the American Geophysical Union) published what appears to be an objective survey of 10,257 earth scientists, which included geologists and climate scientists. A majority of those responding (82%) said a significant amount of global warming is being caused by human activity. Climate scientists (5%) were in stronger agreement; 97.4% see human activity driving climate change (See more).

It's tempting to get bogged down in a debate over global warming. Please don't. Inhofe's doubters could be right. Maybe this is yet another scientific fad that's off base.

But I think Congress is going to listen to the climate scientists. And I'm worried that Congress will tackle global warming the wrong way -- by taxing greenhouse gases, driving up your fuel and fertilizer costs. If they do it the right way, with carefully crafted cap-and-trade legislation, farmers and ranchers could benefit from carbon credit payments that do more than cover any increased input costs.

Because many of you are still skeptical about global warming, I worry that not all farm groups will fight hard enough for cap-and-trade for agriculture. And a House Agriculture Committee survey of ag groups on climate change may just sideline us, while urban members of Congress move ahead and punish ag.

It's encouraging to see that the National Corn Growers Association has formed a farmer-led Climate Change Task Force. And several past presidents of the Corn Growers are already working with the Agricultural Carbon Market Working Group in Washington.

If you do nothing else on this issue, please visit the group's Web site, www.agcarbonmarkets.com. This effort is led by a solid group of farmers. Over the summer, the site will keep you updated on Congress' work on global warming.

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