The Big Drought

The end is nigh! Well not quite but we are nearing the point of no return if politicians keep sitting on the climate change fence in this US election year! In the summer of 2012, scorching heat and no rain have brought about the worst drought in nearly a half-century. Needless to say this is going to send food prices up leading to worries about global food costs (anyone remembers the food crisis of 2008?)  For anyone doubting the importance of American agriculture to world markets the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported last Thursday that its food price index jumped by 6 percent in July. As if we didn’t have enough on our communal plate, here is a little discussed subject, natural & man-made aerosols.

The first measurement-based estimate has been made of the tiny airborne particles known as aerosols that arrive by air in North America each year according to NASA and university researchers. The estimate says 64 million tons of dust, pollutants, and other particles mix into the air over North America each year. It is estimated 69 million tons of aerosols are produced within North America alone by natural processes, transportation, and industrial sources. This new estimate of airborne aerosols nearly equals our own domestic production.

Not only humans are suffering the consequences of climate change but a lot of critters and insects as well. In a moving piece about the disappearing world of bees, caterpillars and dragonflies, Daily Kos blogger draghnfly notes the alarming insect cycles and the absence of several species:

The end of my life is closer than the beginning. I expect to see the beginning of the mass extinctions brought on by a changing climate. My lovely grandchildren, however, will see far worse. They’ll live in a world without the flora and fauna that we so casually toss away. Do you ever feel like Edward G. Robinson in Soylent Green?

Another blogger, Greenmother,  has another take on the dying fauna as she takes a late night drive into the countryside:

Last night was supernaturally quiet. Normally this time of year, the cicadas and the katydids and the frogs are so loud that you cannot step outside to talk on the phone. And sitting outside with your friends for a beer, results in everyone trying to talk over the cacophony. Insanely loud is the only way to describe it. This year the grass is so dry here, that it hurts to walk on it, literally.

She laments that the bugs which provide food for the birds and other critters are no longer there. And if the bugs are gone it means the birds are leaving early to migrate to greener pastures. Same with the cicadas, and the many species of butterflies, and so on. It is sad.

Aside from the loss of critters and insects the fear of another, bigger and more lasting global food crisis, sending waves of shudders to economists and world leaders. Already we know of the worsened crop prospects in Russia because of dry weather and wild fires sending world wheat prices up a massive 19%.

On the national front the US is the world’s No 1 exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat and the price hikes are expected to be felt across the international marketplace, hurting poor food-importing countries, said a study by British charity Oxfam issued on the eve of the UN report.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stepped in to help farmers struggling with drought. It said that during the 2012 crop year, the agency has designated 1,628 counties across 33 states as disaster areas, 1,496 of them because of drought.

The prospects for cheap food fades away as the price for groceries will rise steeply in 2013, including milk, beef, chicken and pork. And grain of course.

“World leaders must snap out of their lazy complacency and realize the time of cheap food has long gone,” Colin Roche, head of economic justice advocacy at Oxfam International, said in a statement. “Without action, millions more people are in danger of joining the billion who are already hungry.”

As I am on the email list of one of my favorite scientific outfit, the CSIRO, this morning’s alert is fitting:

Warming causes more extreme shifts of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest rain band. South Pacific countries will experience more extreme floods and droughts, in response to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The changes will result from the South Pacific rain band responding to greenhouse warming. The South Pacific rain band is largest and most persistent of the Southern Hemisphere spanning the Pacific from south of the Equator, south-eastwardto French Polynesia. Occasionally, the rain band moves northwards towards the Equator by 1000 kilometres, inducing extreme climate events.

This entry was posted in Activism, Desertification, Ecology, Environmental Issue, Politics, Water and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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