Our Best Climate Reporting of 2022 | Civil Eats

Our Best Climate Reporting of 2022

As the climate crisis continues to intensify, some of our most important climate stories covered the hidden and not-so-hidden challenges within food systems, and the solutions that can make a difference.

Harvesting corn at Estrem Farms in Nerstrand, Minnesota.

We continue to see the real-time impacts of the climate crisis play out across the food system, in the U.S. and around the world. Droughts, wildfires, diseases affecting animals and crops alike, heatwaves, and much more all took a toll on the food system and the people who work within it. Through it all we continued to report on the many ways that climate change is reshaping what we produce and how—and where—we produce it.

Among our most notable climate-related stories this year are a number focused on the hidden and not-so-hidden challenges, of dust and ethanol, as well as the ways that companies and industries most responsible for emissions are evading scrutiny and using accounting tricks to downplay their impacts. And as always, we spotlighted the solutions at work, including the landmark climate bill passed by Democrats in Washington, D.C., a looming biochar boom, the rise of regenerative grazing practices, climate-adapted crops, and much more. Below are some of our most important climate stories of 2022.

Big farm tractor tilling dusty Springtime fields

Dust Is a Growing Problem. What Role Does Farmland Play?
With a growing set of tools, scientists are digging into questions about the links between modern agriculture, drought, and rising incidents of dust storms and respiratory illness.

How Corn Ethanol for Biofuel Fed Climate Change
The Renewable Fuel Standard promised to pay farmers to fight climate change and boost U.S. energy independence. Instead, a new five-year study of its impact on land use suggests it led to increased fertilizer use, water pollution, and likely at least 24 percent more emissions than gasoline.

The Field Report: A New UN Climate Report Paints a Stark Picture for Food Systems, but Solutions Exist 
The latest IPCC climate report notes that rapid, transformational change to food systems is necessary and possible, but countries are not doing enough—yet.

How the Largest Global Meat and Dairy Companies Evade Climate Scrutiny
Professor Jennifer Jacquet examined the top 35 meat and dairy companies—which together, account for a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions—and found that half aren’t even measuring their impact.

Chickens graze outside their mobile pen on Open Book Farm. (Photo credit: Mary Kathryn Barnet)

A Regenerative Grazing Revolution Is Taking Root in the Mid-Atlantic
Farmers are scaling up the practice in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and beyond—and it could simultaneously help clean up the Chesapeake Bay, mitigate climate change, and save small family farms.

The Field Report: New UN Climate Report Urges Food Systems Solutions—Before It’s Too Late
The latest report from the IPCC notes that, while eliminating fossil fuels is the first priority, land- and diet-based solutions could provide a quarter of world’s urgently needed emissions cuts.

What the Insect Crisis Means for Food, Farming—and Humanity
Journalist and author Oliver Milman discusses the findings of his new book, how declining pollinator populations could harm vulnerable communities, and the most promising solutions.

The Field Report: Food Companies Are Not Counting All of Their Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Plus, chemicals in food packaging, the infant formula shortage, and more. 

A Wild, Windy Spring Is Creating a Soil Erosion Nightmare for Farmers
Dust storms fueled by climate change, tillage, and drought are causing the loss of tons of topsoil throughout the Great Plains.

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Latina farmer harvests onions.

Will California’s New Groundwater Rules Hurt Small-Scale Farms and Farmers of Color?
New research found that the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) could favor the largest growers in California and could leave small operations in the dust.

Will Climate Change Help Hybrid Grapes Take Root in the US Wine Industry?
Winemakers around the country are working to bring back indigenous and hybrid grape varieties that are better adapted to extreme weather and the new pests and diseases that come amid climate change.

California Dairy Uses Lots of Water. Here’s Why It Matters.
Amid the climate crisis and unprecedented drought, we examine the industrial dairy industry’s impact on groundwater in the state, as well as on low-income residents, communities of color, and small-scale farms.

An overhead view of US Silica's frac sand mine in La Salle County, Illinois. This mine is in front of Diane and Phil Gassman's home. (Photo courtesy of Ted Auch)

From Farmland to Frac Sand
In the Midwest, fertile soil is being excavated in pursuit of fossil fuels, while communities suffer.

Are Criollo Cattle a Regenerative Solution to a 1,200-Year Megadrought?
This heritage breed has adapted to dry rangelands and may help regenerate the soil while needing less water and feed than other cattle. Ranchers in Southern California are helping them find a niche.

What the Climate Bill Means for Farmers and the Food System
The Inflation Reduction Act includes billions for sustainable agriculture and a last-minute provision to provide debt relief to farmers.

As Drought Hits Farms, Investors Lay Claim to Colorado Water
The debate over how to treat water—as a public resource or an investment tool—is escalating as climate change accelerates the water crisis in the West.

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The Heat Wave Crushing the West Is a Preview of Farmworkers’ Hot Future
By the end of the century, the San Joaquin Valley could endure two months of extreme heat every summer. What will this mean for agriculture and farmworker communities?

Raul "Reppo" Chavez digs out agave "pups" that will be sold to a new agave grower. Over the course of two days, he would dig up 1,000 pups from Craig Reynolds' fields to sell to the new grower. (Photo credit: Anne Marshall-Chalmers)

In the Age of Megadrought, Farmers in the West See Promise in Agave
Interest in commercial agave production is surging in the West, thanks to the plant’s ability to survive with little or no water and the path into the potentially lucrative world of spirits.

New Mexico Farmers Face a Choice: Pray for Rain or Get Paid Not to Plant
With irrigation scarce, New Mexico is paying farmers to let their fields lie fallow. But some are choosing instead to bet on the monsoon season.

Biogas Expansion May Compound Worker Risks
Government incentives are driving larger, more crowded CAFOs—while protections for the workers inside lag behind.

Since 2009, the Civil Eats editorial team has published award-winning and groundbreaking news and commentary about the American food system, and worked to make complicated, underreported stories—on climate change, the environment, social justice, animal welfare, policy, health, nutrition, and the farm bill— more accessible to a mainstream audience. Read more >

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