Climate change related job losses

drought in texasIn a potential sign of things to come, a west Texas meat packing facility has shuttered its operations as meat demand, and supply, drops. Demand for factory farmed meat is dropping for a variety of reasons, but the supply is dropping due to climate change, as persistent droughts sweep across formerly fertile farmlands.

Cargill, one of the giant agribusinesses producers of factory farmed meats, closed its Plainview, Texas meat packing facility last week, cutting 2,000 jobs in the process. The cause? Drought.

Persistent droughts across Texas and the rest of the great plains have driven economic forces that have resulted in America’s cattle herds being at their lowest levels in 75 years. So what happens to Plainview, Texas, when its meat packing facility closes down? 2,000 jobs is roughly 15% of the town’s workforce. When they leave, businesses elsewhere suffer. An NPR interview found business to be dramatically down at the local cleaners and bakery.

In California, state agriculture survived the most recent prolonged drought, from 2006 to 2009, and actually recorded improved revenues and job creation, but they did so by pumping more groundwater to cover the rainwater shortfall. In other words, they drilled and pumped more wells, but is that a long term solution? Most hydrologists warn that, at best, it’s a bandaid.

In the midwest, industries as diverse as oil, farms, manufacturing, steel, and transportation have felt the pinch from prolonged drought in the Mississippi region. The Mississippi River was 15-20 feet lower than it should have been in December due to extreme droughts, and experts there predicted 10,000 jobs could be directly under threat.

The effects are by no means limited to the United States. The global food supply is being affected by climate change related droughts, and jobs will be lost everywhere.

Drought photo from Shutterstock