Info centres to help cope with extreme weather

U.S. launches ‘climate hubs’ | The information centres are to help farmers cope with the consequences of climate change

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters) — U.S. president Barack Obama’s administration has announced the formation of seven “climate hubs,” which will help farmers and rural communities adapt to extreme weather conditions and other effects of climate change.


The hubs will act as information centres and aim to help farmers and ranchers handle risks, including fires, pests, floods and droughts, which are exacerbated by global warming.


Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said the country’s experience with extreme weather patterns recently underscores the need for taking steps now to address the impact of climate change on agriculture and forestry.


As an example of extreme weather, Vilsack cited a winter storm that struck South Dakota in October and killed thousands of cattle.


“When you take a look at the intensity of the storms that we have seen recently, and the frequency of them, the length of drought, combined with these snowstorms and the subzero weather that we’ve experienced, the combination of all those factors convinces me that the climate is changing,” he said.


The hubs will be located in Ames, Iowa, Durham, New Hampshire, Raleigh, North Carolina, Fort Collins, Colorado, El Reno, Oklahoma, Corvallis, Oregon, and Las Cruces, New Mexico.


Additional “sub hubs” will be set up in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, Davis, California, and Houghton, Michigan.


The hubs are an example of executive actions that Obama has promised to take to fight climate change.


He has made the issue a top priority for 2014 and has the authority to take many measures that address it without congressional approval.


Environmentalists want big economies such as the United States and China to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which scientists blame for heating the planet. However, they have also urged policy makers to take action to help communities adapt to rising temperatures now.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the effects of climate change have led to a longer crop growing season in the Midwest, a fire season that is 60 days longer than it was three decades ag, and droughts that cost the United States $50 billion from 2011-13.


The Obama administration is expected to announce new rules later this year that limit carbon emissions from existing U.S. power plants, which are a major polluter. 


The president is also under pressure from environmentalists to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude oil from Canadian oilsands in Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.


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