COLUMBIA — Climate change could disrupt more than just avocado production, panelists said during a discussion Wednesday evening at the Boone County Government Center.
If nothing is done, the rising sea levels and loss of bodies of water, vegetation and wildlife in some areas could create environmental refugees, MU sociology professor Wayne Brekhus said.
Food and water shortages in drought-prone regions could also lead to increased violence and political conflicts because genocides and ethnic conflicts often have environmental roots, Brekhus said.
"People who don't like each other like each other less when there's fierce competition for resources," he said. "As long as there's a lot of resources, we find less violent ways of expressing our dislike."
Five panelists, including Brekhus, discussed climate change at the event that was created to inform attendees about the effects of climate change and discuss possible solutions. Organized by Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, the event was co-sponsored by other community organizations, including Renew Missouri, Mizzou Energy Action Coalition, Osage Group Sierra Club Citizens Climate Lobby and Democracy for Missouri.
The effects of climate change are not limited to humans, however. They have also affected wildlife, said panelist Jane Weaver, who is the director of environmental studies at MU.
Certain parts of the Ozarks Forest have seen a 15 percent species reduction in mice, insects and spiders, she said. Eventually the oaks in the forest will die, leaving the area vulnerable to more forest fires. Shortleaf pines will replace the oaks.
"It's already true that the forest our children experienced are not the forests we knew," Weaver said, adding that in a few generations there may not even be forests.
Droughts and more extreme seasons are already taking a toll on Missouri agriculture and could continue to get worse, MU rural sociology professor Mary Hendrickson said.
As the years go on, the northern half of North America will become the part that sustains most of the continent's agriculture, she said. This trend will affect Missouri and the rest of the Midwest and South, but the U.S. has a better chance of adapting than developing countries.
"Soy beans, for instance, are grown in North Dakota now. That's crazy," Hendrickson said.
The group suggested solutions for the public, including installing newer energy-efficient appliances, minimizing vehicle use and continuing education efforts.
Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.