Steven Chu: Global Warming May Spell End for California Agriculture
In an alarming statement during his first interview since being confirmed as the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu warned that California’s major cities will be in jeopardy and that the state’s agriculture will grind to a halt by the end of the century if steps are not taken to combat global warming, according to the L.A. Times.
“I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,” Dr. Chu said. “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.” And, he added, “I don’t actually see how they can keep their cities going” either.
Dr. Chu, also a Nobel-prize-winning physicist, is himself a resident of California’s East Bay and the former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.
In the worst-case scenario, he told the paper, up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, which would devastate a natural storage system of water needed for agriculture by the nation’s leading agricultural producing state.
California supplies upwards of half of the country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables.
A recent study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, estimated that the state has about $2.5 trillion in real estate assets –including agriculture– endangered by global warming.
According to the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture, California has 88,000 farms and ranches contributing to a $36.6 billion dollar industry that generates $100 billion in related economic activity.
Water shortages are cropping up all over the Bay Area of the state, with one town, Bolinas, in Marin County, already enacting strict measures which ration the water usage to a limit of 150 gallons per day. Numerous violations would cause the customer’s water connection to be severed, according to the law.
Town officials say that their water supply will run out by the end of April if drastic measures are not taken.
For his part, Secretary Chu believes that the answer lies in the public becoming educated to the issues, and that it will be one of the chief strategies that the Obama administration will undertake in order to combat global warming.
“I’m hoping that the American people will wake up,” he said.