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Chester County Press

Editorial: Global warming, local warning

12/01/2015 12:53PM ● By Richard Gaw

Right now, as this editorial is being written, more than 150 world leaders are assembling on what is the second day of a United Nations-sponsored conference on climate change. This widely-covered event arrives fresh on the heels of undeniable scientific evidence that supports the belief that our world is in a severe crisis, at a time when stifling droughts, high temperatures, shrinking ice packs and vanishing glaciers are spinning the globe into an unknown future.

The conference, being held at Le Bourget on the northern edge of Paris, gathers the leaders of nations that are nearly 100 percent responsible for the skyrocketing of the world's greenhouse gas emission levels, and there is something heard in the voices of these leaders that has never been so tinged with urgency.

The conference is scheduled to go on for the next two weeks, and there is every reason to believe that it will be a forum at which pledges will be made and legislation will be drafted – all in an effort to seek greater reductions in greenhouses gases, on a massive and global scale.

Making a global transition to clean energy systems will need to involve not just the G-8 nations, but every country. However, critics are already proclaiming that we're too late to the game; developed countries like the United States are not likely to change their way of life in an effort to conserve on carbon dioxide emissions. Moreover, alternative ideas such as nuclear fusion are still in the design phase.

Right now, as this editorial is being written, there are more than 1,700 farms throughout Chester County whose very livelihood rests on the decisions that will be made, and ultimately put into motion, by what is now happening on the other side of the world.

Already, scientists have measured what impact global climate change is having on the agriculture industry. As climate change threatens weather patterns, temperatures and rainfall, crop yields will continue to drop dramatically, forcing farmers to resort to severe management practices that will all but guarantee a negative effect on growing patterns. If temperatures increase in a higher carbon dioxide environment, plant pests that carry diseases are likely to become more prolific and widespread. Further, increased temperatures will cause more stress on livestock, reduce their reproduction rates and lengthen the time needed for the livestock to reach their target weight.

Roughly one quarter of the total land area in Chester County is used as active farmland. The county's mushroom industry contribute more than $2 billion annually to the local economy, while the county's dairy industry is responsible for more than $70 million in annual revenue. Combined, employment in these two industries numbers well into the thousands. The thought of these farms drying up and going away is unthinkable.

We as a planet are in a last-minute race to galvanize the best of our ideas into solutions. We as a nation are in a crisis of convenience versus commitment, while we as a community are in a waiting game, in order that our very identity may someday be saved.