California farming “may be wiped out”

The new United States secretary of energy, Steven Chu, warned in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that climate change could wipe out California's farms and vineyards by the end of this century. Mountain snowpack – which supplies vital water to the country's leading agricultural state -- could disappear, he said.


"I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen," Chu said. "We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California." He added: "I don’t actually see how they can keep their cities going."


The Nobel Prize-winning physicist said California would suffer some of the most devastating effects if the United States did not act to slow the advance of global warming. In a worst case, up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, Chu said, all but eliminating the natural water-storage system that feeds the state’s agricultural valleys. California is home to a US$35 billion farm industry, which produces more than half of the country’s fruits, vegetables and nuts.


Chu, who is renowned for his work on clean energy, is a key figure in president Barack Obama’s plan to fight climate change by promoting alternative, renewable energy and cutting use of fossil fuels that produce heat-trapping greenhouse gases.


California’s farmers currently face a third straight year of drought due to low Sierra snow levels. Chu also warned of water shortages for the rest of the American west and upper Midwest.


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