USDA is committed to fostering a clean energy economy and to improving the environment by conducting operations in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, complying with environmental laws and regulations, and leading by example. In order to fulfill its mission of providing leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues, USDA focuses on the future. The Department recognizes the significance of global climate change and how potential impacts such as more frequent or severe weather events can affect our programs and operations.
To better coordinate USDA’s sustainability efforts and build on past success, USDA has prepared its 2012 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan that underscores strategies and goals to save taxpayer dollars, reduce carbon emissions, cut waste and save energy. As part of this effort, this year we have also prepared a Climate Change Adaptation Plan that outlines how the Department will address the impacts of climate change on its key mission areas such as agricultural production, food security, rural development, and forestry and natural resources conservation. The plan is available and open for a 60-day public comment period.
The USDA Climate Change Adaptation Plan includes input from eleven USDA agencies and offices. It provides a detailed vulnerability assessment, reviews the elements of USDA’s mission that are at risk from climate change, and provides specific actions and steps being taken to build resilience to climate change. The plan advances President Obama’s efforts to prepare the federal government for climate change. We expect to revise and update the plan in 2013 in response to comments received from the public. Read more »
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) today presented a report on the importance of USDA’s leadership in agricultural research. The Council is a diverse group of individuals appointed by the President from across the basic and applied scientific community to advise the President and the Executive Office of the President on key scientific issues.
Report to the President on Agricultural Preparedness & the Agriculture Research Enterprise, by the Council, concludes that the United States is the undisputed world leader in agricultural production today, but also cautions that U.S. agriculture also faces a number of challenges that are poised to become much more serious in the years ahead.
There is no question that the report recognizes American agriculture and USDA’s leadership in agricultural science and research as critical to the efforts to ensure greater food security and a better future for everyone. Read more »
Do you have questions about national conservation or wildlife preservation efforts? Have you ever wondered about the effect of wildfires in our national forests? Wondering how you can give back to the great outdoors? You’re in luck!
USDA Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Environment and Climate Change Robert Bonnie will be hosting a live Virtual Office Hours session on Twitter this Thursday to answer your questions about USDA’s record conservation achievements and efforts to reconnect Americans to the great outdoors. Read more »
Blackbrush, a species in the Mojave and Great Basin deserts, has adjusted well to climate change, according to genetics research by Forest Service scientists.
Climate change’s threat to forests – specifically to trees – has garnered much attention among people concerned with protecting our environment. Yet, a lack of research on the effects of climate change on grasslands and shrublands is leaving land managers with little information to make decisions on sustaining these vital landscapes so important for recreation, tribal life, crop and livestock production, and native plant and wildlife conservation.
Forest Service researchers point to recent climatic studies in predicting that by the end of the century, 55 percent of future landscapes in the West will likely have climates that are incompatible with the vegetation types that now occur on those landscapes. Read more »
Maple leaves of many colors offer an unending palette of color in the United States Department of Agriculture, U. S. Forest Service, Hiawatha National Forest on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
U.S. Forest Service research indicates that climate change will affect habitat suitability for maple trees, threatening the multimillion dollar maple syrup industry. Changes in climate have already had an impact on the iconic sugar maple trees of the Northeastern U.S.
Flow of maple sap, which is boiled down to make syrup, is controlled by alternating freezing and thawing cycles in the late winter. Maple trees also rely on snowpack during this time to protect their roots from freezing. Read more »
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
People often get confused when observed weather patterns run contrary to climate projections. For instance, those living in the Mid-Atlantic States hear from experts that the region has now moved into a dry savanna-like climate zone, but yet two winters ago over 40 inches of snow fell in a single month. But weather is highly variable regardless of the state of the climate. Individual weather events like this one are different than “climate,” which refers to long-term trends over decades. And further, climate change could produce more extremes at both ends of the weather spectrum even while a region shifts into a seemingly contrary climate state.
In an attempt to make science and technical concepts of projecting climate change clearer to the public, the U.S. Forest Service has published a report simplifying complex information and resources. Read more »