A summer of drought and wildfires has dramatically hit crops across the USA this year, which will undoubtedly lead to a dramatic price rise on the international commodity markets resulting with a knock-on effect in higher prices of consumer goods. This horrifying map below shows the drought-stricken areas covering most of the southern two-thirds of the United States (source: USDA).
On Friday the thirteenth this month (yes, this is true) the United States declared a natural disaster in more than 1,000 drought-stricken counties in 26 states. Already a third of the nation’s corn crop has been damaged by unbearable heat.
To add insult to injury in this week’s Scientific American, waves of extreme weather will likely persist to mid-August, further stressing crops. I wonder whether the combination of the drought and extreme heat this spring and summer are harbingers of Dust Bowl-like conditions. I looked for a map from the great drought of 1936 and found startling similarities.
The heat wave started in late June, when temperatures across the US exceeded 100 °F (38 °C). The Midwest experienced some of the highest June temperatures on record. Drought conditions worsened. In the Northeast, temperatures climbed to the mid 90s °F (around 35 °C). The South and West started to heat up also, and also experienced drought.
Here’s the shorter version of the farmer’s dreaded nemesis: lengthy periods with an average rainfall and moderately sunny days are the cultivator’s comfort zone. When soil moisture evaporates due to lack of precipitation, it eventually leads to the curling of leaves which then turn into stunted plants. The corn belt becomes the burnt belt, pushing up prices for commodities, and this will raise the cost of foodstuffs for many consumers. And since food security in a changing climate depends on the nutritional value and yield of staple food crops we are at a crossroad.
Bob Inglis of South Carolina, one of those rare Republicans who actually acknowledges climate change….but somewhat takes the Panglossian road with these words:
“Those who do speak, speak in apocalyptic visions and that drives us further into denial as a suitable coping mechanism. If you tell me we are all toast and it’s just terrible, that doom is imminent, if you tell me that then eat, drink and be merry. If I am toast, I may as well just ignore it.”
In other words, not much to see here, don’t scare us with your gloom & doom, let’s move along! What about Romney’s stance on this climatic hot potato, you may ask? Well, last time I looked at his position the putative candidate has been saying that “we don’t know” if humans are causing climate change, what I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to” — flipping in the opposite direction from his earlier position as Governor, when he called for a “no regrets policy” on addressing climate change. Confused? You should be because
“As we head into the general election, a surrogate from the Romney campaign now indicates the candidate has again changed his stance, declaring that he is “certainly not a denier” of climate science.” Speaking at a debate on energy issues today between representatives of the Romney and Obama campaigns, former Deputy Secretary of Energy Linda Gillespie Stunz implied multiple times that Mitt Romney would be open to action on the issue.
As some internet wag wrote, the more important question is, does Mitt agree with Mitt?