THE BLOG
07/11/2007 04:19 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Global Climate Change Whacks Local Menu, Cows

I like blueberries. And fresh trout. Oh, and I'm pretty much addicted to milk and other dairy products. Well, all those and more are threatened to suffer and/or disappear from Pennsylvania according to a new peer-reviewed report, Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, from the Union of Concerned Scientists (short overview here, the whole 160-page pdf enchilada here) My attention was first grabbed by the local story that reported

Pennsylvanians should be prepared to say goodbye to ski resorts, snowmobiles, brook trout and eastern hemlocks. ... [I]f carbon dioxide emissions continue to grow unabated, water supplies will be hurt and the state's dairy, corn, and apple agriculture would all suffer significant losses.

The report covers nine northeastern states from Pennsylvania to Maine, an area that -- despite stereotypes -- is largely rural, still dotted with small family farms (not many factory farms, which prefer large stretches of flat ground, a commodity in short supply here). As if suburban sprawl and agribusiness haven't hurt local farmers enough, now we have this prognosis from the UCS:

Agriculture: By late-century under the higher-emissions scenario, heat stress in cows is projected to cut milk production across much of the region by 5 to 20 percent in certain months, with the greatest losses in the key dairy state of Pennsylvania. Parts of the Northeast are projected to become unsuitable for growing certain popular varieties of apples, blueberries, and cranberries by mid-century, since they require long winter-chill periods to produce fruit. Meanwhile, weed problems and pest-related damage are likely to escalate, increasing pressures on farmers to use more herbicides and pesticides.

No joke, but we're big on milk -- fourth largest producer in the country, according to the Center for Dairy Excellence -- with some 560,000 cows on 9,000 farms. Do the math: that's a per-farm average of 63 cows, which spend their days munching down some pasture and their nights in a barn. Not stuck in a factory farm. (Find other fun facts in this state report pdf.)

Of course, projected climate change isn't just going to wallop the farmers. Fisheries will suffer, and the biggest population centers on the coast will endure "100-year floods" every few years. Penguins and polar bears aren't the only species threatened by global warming.