Climate change could end California farming: Chu

Farmer Tom Chino tends to his family farm in the early morning hours in Ranch Santa Fe, California in this October 5, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Blake

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Secretary of Energy Steven Chu warned climate change could wipe out California’s farms by the end of the century by destroying snowpack that supplies vital water to the nation’s top agriculture state, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.

In his first interview since taking office last month, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist said his home state would suffer some of the most devastating effects of global warming if the nation did not act to slow its advance.

“I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,” Chu 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.

Chu, renowned for his work on clean energy, is pivotal 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.

Chu said in a worst case, up to 90 percent of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating the natural storage system that feeds the valleys at the heart of the state’s $35 billion farm industry. California supplies more than half of America’s fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told California’s farmers to prepare for a third straight year of drought due to low Sierra snow levels and some of the state’s top farming counties may get little or no deliveries of water.

Reporting by Mary Milliken; Editing by Bernie Woodall and Christian Wiessner