Climate change, agriculture & Warren Wilson College scientist Laura Lengnick

Just 1 percent of headlines these days cover environmental news, despite findings that 80 percent of readers, listeners and viewers want to hear more, according to the nonprofit initiative, Project for Improved Environmental Coverage. Asheville’s fortunate to be near the center of environmental studies, activism and interest — in part due to the work of such experts as Warren Wilson College professor/scientist Laura Lengnick.

Warren Wilson College professor Laura Lengnick made the news in recent weeks, with interviews by WCQS’ David Hurand, a Saturday feature in the Asheville Citizen-Times, and a Feb. 15 presentation to research scientists at the USDA’s largest research station. Director of WWC’s Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Studies department, she’s the lead author for a USDA report on climate change and agriculture, released Feb. 5: “Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation

From WWC’s news report:

Lengnick’s work is a major part of the report “Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture: Effects and Adaptation,” the first USDA publication to address agricultural adaptation to climate change. One of the report’s five lead authors, Lengnick herself is the lead author on the adaptation chapter in the report, which was mandated by Congress as technical input to the 3rd National Climate Assessment. … The USDA report is expected to inform public policy development, research and technical development programs, technical advice and education programs on agricultural adaptation to climate change for at least the next five years.

Asheville Citizen-Times’ Dale Neal wrote a Saturday feature article on the professor and her work:

“All farmers deal with production risks, and they have forever, but now they have to contend with the increase and variability of extreme weather events,” said Lengnick, director of the Sustainable Agriculture Program in the college’s department of environmental studies. Lengnick served as one of the USDA’s lead authors, reviewing the peer-reviewed scientific knowledge about what is known about climate change and how farmers can adapt.

On their “The State of Things” series, WUNC public-radio hosts Alex Granados and Frank Stasio chatted with Lengnick on their “The State of Things” series:

“The report is the latest expression of what’s the state of knowledge of climate-change affects on U.S. agriculture and, for the first time, a comprehensive look at what we know about adapation,” says Lengnick. “It represents a new chapter in our nation’s thinking about climate change and what are the possible responses. Adaptation is very different from mitigation; it’s more local in nature and it basically gives us the opportunity to think about … how we can guard against or prepare for some of the negative effects but also how we can take advantage of some of the benefits of climate change.”

From Chapter 7 of the “Climate Change and Agriculture” report —  “Adapting to Climate Change”:

The increasing pace of climatic change, the complex interactions between the global climate system, ecosystems and social systems, and the complexity of climate change adaptation processes presents a novel challenge to the sustainability of U.S. agricultural system. Current climate change effects are challenging agricultural management and are likely to require major adjustments in production practices over the next 30 years and projected climate changes over the next century have the potential to transform U.S. agriculture. Taking adaptive action to avoid the damages and capitalize on the opportunities presented by climate change requires stakeholders throughout the U.S. agricultural system to make decisions about the system under their management despite the multidimensional uncertainties associated with a changing climate.

And for more about PIEC’s report on the decline in environmental-news coverage, click here: The report “found that for some news organizations, entertainment and crime garner twenty times and sixty times more coverage than the environment. Recent polling shows that news consumers overwhelmingly know that something needs to change — with nearly 80 percent of Americans wanting improved environmental coverage in the news.”

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About Margaret Williams
Managing Editor Margaret Williams has been at Xpress since 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987.

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