Another Report Which The President Won't Read
June 2, 2008 2:45 AM   Subscribe

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program has just released "Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.3: The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity in the United States." It makes for pretty interesting reading.

* Grain and oilseed crops will mature more rapidly, but increasing temperatures will increase the risk of crop failures, particularly if precipitation decreases or becomes more variable.
* Higher temperatures will negatively affect livestock. Warmer winters will reduce mortality but this will be more than offset by greater mortality in hotter summers. Hotter temperatures will also result in reduced productivity of livestock and dairy animals.
* Forests in the interior West, the Southwest, and Alaska are already being affected by climate change with increases in the size and frequency of forest fires, insect outbreaks and tree mortality. These changes are expected to continue.
* Much of the United States has experienced higher precipitation and streamflow, with decreased drought severity and duration, over the 20th century. The West and Southwest, however, are notable exceptions, and increased drought conditions have occurred in these regions.
* Weeds grow more rapidly under elevated atmospheric CO2. Under projections reported in the assessment, weeds migrate northward and are less sensitive to herbicide applications.
* There is a trend toward reduced mountain snowpack and earlier spring snowmelt runoff in the Western United States.
* Horticultural crops (such as tomato, onion, and fruit) are more sensitive to climate change than grains and oilseed crops.
* Young forests on fertile soils will achieve higher productivity from elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Nitrogen deposition and warmer temperatures will increase productivity in other types of forests where water is available.
* Invasion by exotic grass species into arid lands will result from climate change, causing an increased fire frequency. Rivers and riparian systems in arid lands will be negatively impacted.
* A continuation of the trend toward increased water use efficiency could help mitigate the impacts of climate change on water resources.
* The growing season has increased by 10 to 14 days over the last 19 years across the temperate latitudes. Species' distributions have also shifted.
* The rapid rates of warming in the Arctic observed in recent decades, and projected for at least the next century, are dramatically reducing the snow and ice covers that provide denning and foraging habitat for polar bears.
posted by chuckdarwin (6 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Yep. We're boned.
posted by kyrademon at 3:19 AM on June 2, 2008

I think that the matter-of-fact tone of the thing is what's sort of shocking. It's like: here it is kids; we can't sugar-coat this.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:23 AM on June 2, 2008

I wonder how much more interesting it would be uncensored?
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:23 AM on June 2, 2008

Ah very interesting post chuckdarwin - many thanks. I always try to look at these things from the investing perspective ('cause that's what I do). I haven't waded through the pdf yet, but a few thoughts after reading the second link :

The article is contradictory on timber - once noting the negative impact to interior forests, other times mentioning increased productivity. In any case, timber, perhaps in the form of forestland, would probably be a good investment. In general, forestland is a curious asset class - low risk / (relatively) high return, with overall negative correlation to equities. In the UK regular cash flow from timber harvesting is tax free, and capital gains can be rendered tax free as well if the forestland is held for a minimum term. I believe some US States have similar terms and conditions. If one isn't inclined towards direct investment (never sensible unless the sums are adequately large), Claymore Securities recently launched the first Timber ETF (oh how I love ETFs!), and there are others either in the planning stage or close to launching. Timber is an interesting investment, obscure and rarely thought of as an investment, which is a good thing.

About two years ago many of my colleagues identified water as a good investment. With the trend towards privatisation, infrastructure is a clear play (and as a customer of Thames Water I can safely say watching my bill skyrocket, profitable to someone), but I'm also looking at edge areas such as deslalinsation and water transportation (yes, some of the Gulf States are actively doing this, amazingly enough). Again I'm looking mostly at ETFs here, and there are three on my list at this time: PowerShares Water Resources Portfolio, Claymore S&P Global Water ETF, and First Trust ISE Water Index Fund .

One thing I've been curious about is the increasing interest in South America by wealthier American & UK investors. I'm not really sure what's going on there, and I'd be interested in knowing what the ultimate impact of these climate shifts is expected to be on that part of the world.

All in all, an interesting FPP - many thanks.
posted by Mutant at 4:50 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm replying to an email inthread, so everyone can benefit from the question raised.

I have read a fair amount on water transportation (fascinating topic) and water as a market commodity, and can suggest some resources (its not really my area of finance, just something I've researched to a small extent).

Landry & Anderson wrote an interesting paper [.pdf] talking about the transformation of water "from a political commodity to a market commodity". While discussing water transportation they reviewed activities in North America and New Zealand. A very accessible paper. Full citation: Anderson, T., L., Landry, C., J. , 2001, EXPORTING WATER TO THE WORLD

Sometimes, sadly enough, water has been used as a political weapon. Many wars and smaller conflicts have been fought over water - in fact, at least 48 since the year 2000; a good overview was published by The Pacific Institute [.pdf].

The Economist did a survey article dated July 19th, 2003, entitled "Priceless: A Survey of Water". I can't seem to find a free link, and I hate to link to something behind a paid for firewall, but if you're a subscriber its a good read.

Back in 1998 Anderson wrote a fascinating paper foreseeing to some extent the rapid growth of water markets [.pdf]. Its a good read if only for his review of water trading in North America and Europe. Full citation: Anderson, T., L., 1998, THE RISING TIDE OF WATER MARKETS.

While many may not agree with Anderson's conclusion "Growing demands for consumption, pollution dilution, and environmental amenities will put pressure on limited water resources. But these pressures need not create crises if individuals are allowed to respond through market processes.", that shouldn't detract from the quality of his research. As with most academic papers, there is a rich web of citations that can be followed, depending upon your particular focus on the topic.

In terms of books, I've currently got on my reading list (not read, no idea when I'll get to them):

Barlow & Clark, Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World's Water.

Rothfeder, Every Drop for Sale: Our Desperate Battle Over Water .
posted by Mutant at 6:23 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mutant, I'm on the lookout for US water supply predictions. Ideally, ones that combine changes in snowpack, surface runoff, and groundwater depletion and report it by water district. Wouldn't that be nice! :) Know anything at all close?
posted by salvia at 1:04 AM on June 7, 2008

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