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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

Written by Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride.


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