On the heels of last week's ruling by the EPA that greenhouse gases are a hazard to human health and the environment, leaders and policy makers from around the world gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark to debate and discuss how they might work together to reduce carbon emissions and the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from various human activities, commerce, and industry. Setting aside the recent revelations calling into question the validity of the underlying research data supporting the notion of "manmade" climate change, the Copenhagen summit brings one major problem to the forefront: current global climate mitigation efforts are intentionally geared to the detriment of the US farmer.
Several farmer leaders made the trek to Copenhagen to discuss and observe what happened in the various meetings and debates. Representing grain producers at the summit, Ohio Corn Growers' Association Executive Director Dwayne Siekman reported on the week's events via his blog. Siekman observed directly the application of my thesis: "From the onset it was obvious... that the participants of [the summit] believe the focus should be on farmers in developing countries that have struggled for decades in producing food and feed and criticizing Western Civilization agriculture for being too productive." Furthermore, Siekman shared that the Copenhagen gathering ignored the obvious, that "the world’s leader in producing food, feed and fuel from crops, the world’s leader in utilization of new technology and the world’s leader in efficient production practices that offer the best bet for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction."
With the narrow focus on developed versus developing countries, there is a key problem for US farmers and ranchers: "Worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture account for 14 percent of all GHG emissions, but of that 14 percent, over 74 percent of the agriculture-based GHG emissions come from developing countries. It is obvious that U.S. farmers have been and will continue to do their job, but the rest of the world believes the U.S. should pay to bring everyone to their level."
In other words, the summit isn't about managing the global climate, but rather about punishing the American farmer (and industrialist, and manufacturer, etc., etc.) for being too productive.
One of the key concerns for American agriculture in this framework, as with other international accords segregating countries by developing/developed status, is that so-called developing countries are often allowed to self-designate. In other words, countries like India and China, two of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, will be allowed to more or less ignore any international accord on this issue because they will self-designate themselves as a developing nation.
I'll throw this out there for consideration: China has existed for millennia; if they aren't "developed" by this point in history, it isn't the fault of the U.S. farmer. The same, by the way, could be said of India. The United States, as it were, is a relatively "young" country. Think of it this way: five hundred years ago, most of the world thought the land we currently occupy didn't exist in the first place. Shouldn't we claim that we're still "developing" since we've only been on the map a measly couple of centuries?
Beyond the lopsided definitions of developed or developing, the larger point Siekman makes is that the American farmer is producing an almost infinitely larger volume of food while emitting less than 1/7th of the overall greenhouse gases attributed to agriculture globally. The bottom line is that something's rotten in Denmark this week, and American farmers and policy makers need to make sure we don't crack the farming bedrock of our society in appeasing other nations on the issue of climate change.