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Report: Extreme Heat Will Test Agriculture in Michigan

PHOTO: A new report finds agriculture in Michigan could experience significant financial losses if the impacts of climate change are not addressed. Photo credit: S. Garton/morguefile.
PHOTO: A new report finds agriculture in Michigan could experience significant financial losses if the impacts of climate change are not addressed. Photo credit: S. Garton/morguefile.
July 1, 2014

LANSING, Mich. - Extreme heat could change the face of agriculture in Michigan. New research outlines the financial impacts businesses face in the coming years if action is not taken to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The report from the Risky Business Project predicts a two-degree jump in the average temperature in Michigan from 2020 to 2039, which Risky Business communications director Matt Lewis says will test farmers and producers.

"The grain belt and upper Midwest will see expected reductions in crop productivity based on extreme heat," says Lewis, "and water availability will also become an issue."

According to the report, if the causes of climate change are not addressed soon, the Midwest will face crop yield declines of up to 19 percent by mid-century and 63 percent by the end of the century. Lewis says agriculture and other industries can minimize their financial risks by changing practices to become more resilient, and by building risk assessment into their investments.

Report co-author and Rutgers University climate scientist Robert Kopp says there will also be drastic losses in labor productivity down the road, especially for the agricultural, manufacturing and transportation sectors.

"By about 2040 to 2060, the sort of labor productivity loss where you have to let your workers get a lot of time off to deal with the heat, that's going to be happening basically every other year," says Kopp. "Previously it would've happened only once every 20 years."

Lewis notes climate change is not on the radar of many Michigan businesses, but it needs to be since the impacts of extreme weather events will only worsen.

"These events that used to be very infrequent, very extreme and very high-impact happen now with increasing frequency," says Lewis. "That's going to be the new normal. So our ability to prevent that is through early action, and our ability to address that risk is through thinking about it now."

Lewis adds their findings highlight the need for the U.S. business community to step into the public discussion of climate mitigation and preparedness to decrease the risks to the economy.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI