10/27/2012 11:18:00 AM Climate change already having an impact
Catholic News Service photo
A girl eats her meal next to a relative shucking corn in Terrabona, Nicaragua, Oct. 11.
Higher temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns might transform the agricultural landscape of Central America, threatening the livelihoods of a million corn and bean farmers.
It's time, first, to stop denying climate change, and second, to do something helpful. Scientists, as part of a project led by Catholic Relief Services, have found that climate changes are threatening the two most important food crops in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
It's comparatively easy for us in the U.S. to work on other things. But our problems pale in comparison to having the planet scorching your food sources for the foreseeable future.
The scientists say that an expected average temperature increase of around 1 degree Celsius by 2020 will damage corn, worsening water shortages. The region's economy would take a $100 million annual sock in the gut.
For beans, there is a serious threat of reduced rains during the planting season in the fall, with higher temperatures affecting flowering and seed production, which could reduce yields in all four countries by as much as 25 percent. The typically wet months of October and November are likely to see even more severe downpours, similar to those that destroyed crops and infrastructure in 2011.
However, the scientists suggest that with decisive action from policymakers, the worst can be averted. There's no quick fix, but getting back to basics gives us a chance. Extension services across the region need to be well funded to train small farmers in soil and water management. Governments, most notably our own, must set climate-smart policies.
It's inconceivable that concern for the planet has been pushed to the back of the line yet again. Our Catholic social teaching shows us that we are stewards of God's creation and that we must see to it that our land use does not hurt the vulnerable. In general, we are failing miserably.