In California, Climate Adaptation Is a High Stakes Game We Must Win

Kara Heckert

The fight against climate change is on. And it’s not only in big cities and at universities. Communities across the state are joining the movement as they increasingly feel the impacts of a changing climate including drought, wildfires, mudslides, and other extreme weather patterns.

In California, the stakes are particularly high. More than half of the nation’s vegetables, fruits, and nuts are grown in the Golden State contributing to a $50 billion farm economy that rivals entire nations.

At the same time, farmland is increasingly being recognized as essential to mitigating the impacts of climate change. Research conducted as part of our California Greener Fields project shows that protecting farmland while growing cities in a compact manner reduces future emissions while still allowing the state economy to expand. In addition, climate-smart agriculture improves soil health, sequesters carbon, and increases resiliency, making farmland a one-of-a-kind tool in the fight against climate change.

A fundamental tenet of AFT’s Farmers Combat Climate Change initiative in California is that conserving farmland by the acre and soil by the inch represents a powerful approach for reducing greenhouse gases, while also improving soil health and productivity. One of our on-the-ground projects related to this initiative makes the case for the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices among farmers. We'll be sharing the economic benefits farmers realized from successful soil health outcomes in order to work toward scaling up adoption of these practices statewide. To learn more about this project, listen to our recent interview with AGNet West.

We recognize, however, that securing the future of our food, environment, and economy requires more than only working with farmers and policy makers. As part of our California Greener Fields project, we’re bringing greater awareness to the role of farmland in mitigating climate change and engaging California residents in combating climate change within their communities. We’re particularly committed to engaging new audiences that may not have previously been exposed to or participated in farmland advocacy. Our educational materials include recommended actions for partnering with farmers, local officials, state legislators, and communities on farmland protection and good land stewardship.

Check out our communications toolkit for messaging and graphics you can use to promote farmland as a solution to climate change.

Greener Fields is headed to the Governor’s 2018 Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco next week. AFT president John Piotti is discussing the need for communities everywhere to embrace farmland protection as an effective, cost-efficient climate change mitigation strategy. Farmers, ranchers, and farmland are critical in the fight against climate change both in California and beyond--we need everyone spreading this message.