Climate Hub Corvallis; Much Ado Without Dollars?

file8471338228443The issue of climate change is, forgive the pun, a heated one. It wasn’t always such a partisan issue, but has, in the past ten years or so, become more or less a “red vs. blue” issue.

So it should be no surprise that the announcement of regional climate “Hubs” being created by executive order of President Obama would get a mixed reaction. What is less surprising is the relative lack of reaction from both sides. While conservative and libertarian outlets like the Heritage Foundation were predictably unexcited by the news, they certainly didn’t go for the jugular. Similarly surprising was the lack of fanfare on the left from sites like the Huffington Post.

Clearly the big reason for this is the lack of funding for the Hubs. The 7 climate change study centers are being run by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in conjunction with local universities. They currently have no additional funding for the project, and obviously this is seen as neutering by the left and uninteresting (as it doesn’t involve taxpayer funds) on the right.

It’s also seen by some on both sides as more or less a distraction of mild import for President Obama, who is increasingly seen as a lame duck.

We spoke with Corvallis Hub leader Dr. Beatrice Van Horne about the challenges and goals of the not-so-much ballyhooed program.

“The Climate Hubs were set up as a result of the realization on the part of the Department of Agriculture that we have a lot of climate change information that is quite difficult for producers- farmers, ranchers and private forest owners – to access. So Secretary [Tom] Vilsack set up the Hubs so we could communicate that climate change information to ‘users’ who may currently be underserved,” she says.

This sounds like a very good idea in principle, because the major complaint about previous climate change combat strategies, at least on the right, is that they would potentially cripple the economy. Instead of pushing draconian cuts to fossil fuel use, as advocated by many who see climate change apocalypse just over the horizon, the Hubs ostensibly focus on helping economic reaction to climate change. They would do this by informing farmers of droughts, storms, pests, and other byproducts of climate change that threaten their crops, as well as ways to mitigate these damages, or perhaps turn some to their advantage. One of the many interesting results of climate change, for instance, is that the growing season for farmers is two weeks longer today than it was 60 years ago. On the other hand, the fire season is a full two months longer than it was just 30 years ago.

Of course those who see climate change as the defining issue of mankind will logically see this as a rather underwhelming attempt. Moreover, some conservatives are viewing it as a thinly veiled ploy to turn farmers and rural residents, who overwhelmingly lean right, toward the blue side of the ballot.

Some are most focused on the money, and call the lack of funding currently slated for the Hub a nail in its coffin, as did a recent editorial in the Corvallis Gazette Times.

But Dr. Van Horne disagrees.

“I’m not terribly concerned about that. This is information that these stakeholders need and I believe that we will be backed by the Department of Agriculture and we will get this information to them,” she says about the lack of money.

“We aren’t very well funded so far, but it’s logical, that if you’re setting up some hubs that are in this case, cross agency, that is Forest Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Agricultural Research Service, and we all need to partner with [OSU] Extension, these things take a little while to get set up,” she elaborated.

For the foreseeable future, the Hub will be building its infrastructure and girding up for brisk business.

According to Dr. Van Horne, “There’s a lot of connecting that needs to be done. In order to use funding wisely, we need to get this set up and get our objectives set up, and get our stakeholders and steering committees together, it just takes a little while to get that done, so I believe that it’s likely we will get more substantial support in the future.”

By Ygal Kaufman

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