A year-long monthly series of climate change science seminars have been developed by USDA’s Office of Energy and Environmental Policy and the USDA Agriculture, Forestry, and Climate Science Working Group. These seminars are designed to provide USDA employees and key Cooperative Extension personnel with the scientific foundations of climate change, and an understanding of how climate change influences USDA’s mission and daily work. The series features leading scientists, both internal and external to USDA, who provide information and respond to questions on a range of climate change related topics, including the foundational science of climate change, the effects of climate change on U.S. croplands, animal agriculture and forests, and the impact of climate extremes on agriculture and forests. These discussions are designed to be of use to USDA conservation, resource management, commodity, and service staff, and accessible to anyone, regardless of their level of familiarity of the subject matter.
Climate Change 101: The Foundational Science
Dr. Keith Dixon (NOAA) is an award winning science communicator with more than 30 years of experience as a research meteorologist and climate modeler. In the inaugural video of the climate seminar series, Dr. Dixon discusses what is known about our planet's changing climate, how that knowledge is developed, and how certain we are that humans are responsible for the change we are observing.
Climate Effects on U.S. Agriculture and Forests
Climate change effects are already evident in U.S. forests and agroecosystems. We are on the cusp of additional and potentially more severe effects, primarily facilitated by increased frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events (drought, heavy rainfall, heat waves) and associated disturbances (wildfires, insect outbreaks).
Climate Extremes in Agriculture and Forests
Atmospheric CO2 in the atmosphere is now likely higher than at any point in the last two million years. The effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 are interconnected, leading to changes in extremes in both weather and climate. USGS's Dr. Adam Terando discusses the consequences of changes in temperature, precipitation and drought to U.S. agriculture and forests, and approaches to adaptation.
Climate Effects and Adaptation in Croplands
Dr. Lisa Ainsworth, Research Leader of the USDA ARS Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit, speaks to USDA about the effects of recent and future climate change on croplands, how those changes impact global crop yields, and strategies for adaptation.
Climate Effects and Adaption in Animal Agriculture
Dr. Mark Boggess, Director of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, and Dr. Justin Derner, Research Leader of the Rangeland Resources and Systems Research Unit, discuss how climate change and increased weather variability impact animal production systems. Specific topic areas covered include the effects of heat stress on feedlot cattle, designing sustainable beef systems, climate change influences on rangelands, and options for adapting animal production systems to climate change.
Climate Effects and Adaption in Forests
Dr. Christopher J. Fettig, Dr. Maria K. Janowiak, and Dr. Jessica E. Halofsky discuss how climate change driven increases in temperature and variation in precipitation are impacting U.S. forests and the wide range of ecosystem services they provide, sharing opportunities to proactively address risks to forests, and providing concrete examples of adaptation strategies and tactics that can be leveraged by the federal government and private landowners.
Environmental Justice and Agriculture
Dr. Sacoby Wilson and Dr. Frank K. Lake provide definitions and examples of the links between environmental justice, traditional ecological knowledge, climate change, and agriculture and forestry.
Greenhouse Gases in Agriculture and Forests
Dr. Grant Domke and Dr. Charles W. Rice discuss trends in GHG emissions over time, U.S. land sector GHG emissions and removals, the GHG emission intensity of agricultural commodities, and opportunities to reduce emissions and enhance soil carbon sequestration.
Technical Mitigation Options in Croplands and Animal Agriculture
Dr. Dominic Woolf (Cornell University) and Dr. Sara Place (Elanco) draw from their expertise in crop and animal agriculture to outline a range of opportunities for reducing or mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, and how mitigation options differ across systems and geography.
Technical Mitigation Options in Forests
Dr. Richard A. Birdsey, a Senior Scientist with the Woodwell Climate Research Center, discusses the forest carbon cycle, the role of U.S. forests in mitigating climate change and helping the U.S. meet its 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions goal, and how conditions in the future may impact this critical carbon sink.
Food Systems, Food Security, and Global Linkages
Food systems both impact and are affected by climate change. Emissions come not only from farming, but also from the processing, manufacturing, distribution, storage, sale, and preparation of food, and the disposal of food wastes. Likewise, climate change influences not just agriculture, but activities that occur throughout this larger system. In this talk, Dr. Peters will address the fundamental concepts of food systems and food security. He will explain how scientists estimate climate emissions from individual supply chains and from whole food systems. He will also consider case study examples of strategies for reducing emissions viewed both from the production and consumer ends of the food system.
Bringing People into the Science of Climate Change
People are central to climate change. The size of climate change impacts, adaptation, and mitigation depend on human behavior—by individuals, communities, businesses, industries, governments, trade partners, and their complex interactions. In this seminar, Dr. Dannele Peck (USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub) and Dr. Jeff Prestemon (USDA Forest Service) explore the human dimensions of climate change in agriculture and forestry, with insights from rural sociology, forest economics, and other social sciences. Learn about the drivers of adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices, and how sea-level rise could affect timber markets globally.