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Energy Secretary: Climate change could wipe out Calif. farming

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John Dooley/Sipa Press/NEWSCOM/FILE

(Read caption) An orange grove in Redlands, Calif. The state's agriculture annually brings in more than $30 billion in revenue.

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Energy Secretary Steven Chu warned that, if climate change continues unabated, California's agriculture could vanish by the end of the century.

Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who ran the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory before joining the Obama administration, said that warming temperatures could eliminate up to 90 percent of the Sierra snowpack, which provides water to many of the state's 76,000 farms.

"I don't think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen," he told the newspaper. "We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California."

"I don't actually see how they can keep their cities going," he added.

According to statistics from the US Department of Agriculture [PDF], California is responsible for about half of US fruit, nut, and fresh vegetable production.

As the LA Times notes, Chu is not a climate scientist. His Nobel Prize, which he shared with French physicist Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and American physicist William Daniel Phillips, was awarded in 1997 for his contributions to “laser cooling,” a method of trapping gaseous atoms with laser light.

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