Study Finds Climate Change Could Hit U.S. Corn Belt Hard

Study Finds Climate Change Could Hit U.S. Corn Belt Hard

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Climate change could hit the U.S. Corn Belt especially hard, a study from Emory University finds.

Without “major technological advances in agricultural practices,” the U.S. Corn Belt will be unsuitable for cultivating corn by 2100, moderate projections show.

The study focused on the six major U.S. crops (alfalfa, corn, cotton, hay, soy and wheat) that cover 80% of the nation’s cultivated land.

Emily Burchfield, author of the study and assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences, used historical models to “project biophysically driven shifts in cultivation” out to the year 2100 under low-, moderate- and high-emission scenarios.

She found that even under moderate-emission scenarios, “cultivation geographies” of corn, soy, alfalfa and wheat will shift strongly north, with the Corn Belt of the upper Midwest becoming unsuitable to the cultivation of corn by 2100.

The author acknowledged that the projections don’t account for the ways technology may help farmers adapt.

“But relying on technology alone is a really risky way to approach the problem,” Burchfield stated. “If we continue to push against biophysical realities, we will eventually reach ecological collapse.”

Massachusetts and ExxonMobil

The Massachusetts high court rejected ExxonMobil’s efforts to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the state accusing it of misleading the public about the role its fossil fuels play in climate change.

The 2019 lawsuit by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey alleges that Exxon launched an effort, “reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s long denial campaign about the dangerous effects of cigarettes,” to deceive consumers and investors about climate change, the Seattle Times reported this week.

The Massachusetts’ Supreme Court upheld a ruling from a lower court rejecting ExxonMobil’s argument that state law shielded it from the suit. Exxon has denied spreading misleading information about fossil fuels and global warming.

The Massachusetts lawsuit accuses Exxon of engaging in a “sophisticated, multi-million dollar campaign” to sow doubt in climate science and downplay the link between fossil fuels and climate change, and it claims Exxon also undertook “greenwashing campaigns” in an effort to portray itself as environmentally responsible, according to the Seattle Times article.

“Rather than honestly disclose and mitigate climate change risks, ExxonMobil’s misrepresentations about and failures to disclose those risks have delayed the needed transition to clean energy around the world and make these existential climate-driven threats to the global economy more likely to occur,” the lawsuit states.

First Order Climate Risks

Financial institutions that do not manage climate risks as a “first-order” issue may face a 10-15% hit to annual profits and higher capital requirements, the Bank of England said on Tuesday.

The BoE said action now would lower future costs in its first comprehensive stress test of how Britain’s financial system will cope with climate change and the shift to a net zero-carbon economy by 2050, Reuters reported in an Insurance Journal article this week.

“The first key lesson from this exercise is that over time climate risks will become a persistent drag on banks’ and insurers’ profitability – particularly if they don’t manage them effectively,” BoE Deputy Governor Sam Woods stated in a speech.”While they vary across firms and scenarios, overall loss rates are equivalent to an average drag on annual profits of around 10-15%.”

Reuters reported that the Bank of France was first among central banks to undertake a climate stress test of banks and insurers, however, Fitch said the BoE test was the toughest by a central bank so far. The European Central Bank has planned a test for this year, while the U.S. Federal Reserve has not begun such an exercise, according to Reuters.

More on Exxon

Climate activists are taking aim at Liberty Mutual over its “climate conflicts” after it was announced that board member Joseph Hooley officially became the ExxonMobil board’s new lead director this week.

In a briefing report detailing the apparent links between Liberty Mutual’s Board and fossil fuel interests, LittleSis and Rainforest Action Network charge that ExxonMobil is one of the largest fossil fuel companies in the world is responsible for driving the global climate crisis.

The activists note that Hooley joined ExxonMobil’s board of directors in early 2020, and now as the board’s lead director, he will “oversee the governance of one of Big Oil’s top multinational powerhouses.”

“In this new role, Hooley will be responsible for ensuring that ExxonMobil continues to rake in profits from its core business of oil and gas extraction and production for decades to come,” the briefing states.”

Liberty Mutual media relations has been reached out to for comment.

According to the groups, Hooley owns 13,000 shares of ExxonMobil, worth an estimated $1 million.

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