Is Climate ChangeThreatening Our Food Supply?
Published 02nd August 2012 - 0 comments - 1487 views -
Heat waves and droughts are becoming increasingly common and are greatly affecting food production and food prices. The Palmer Drought Index has been used since 1890 to measure drought conditions on a scale of zero (normal rainfall) to -4 (extreme drought). During the last 30 years, the Palmer Drought Index has fallen as low as -2.2, indicating exceptional drought, for the latitudes at which crops are grown.
That is much, much lower than even the dustbowl days in the United States. This is serious. Currently, 64% of the United States is under drought conditions. This year’s corn crop is expected to be 10% less than last year’s, which is driving up the price of food products and animal feed. A round bale of hay, normally $20, may be as high as $100 next winter. Last year’s droughts and heat waves reduced the cattle herds by over 3 million animals. Many farmers and ranchers are now selling off part of their livestock so they can afford to feed the rest next winter. This has kept meat prices from rising much for now, but the effect will be seen later in the year.
In the past, climate scientists could only predict that climate change was increasing the probability of severe weather, heat waves, and droughts – but they now have enough data and computing power to estimate the probability of extreme weather events. Recently Stott, et. al., found that global warming caused the heat waves and droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year to be 20 times more likely to happen than in 1950. Research by Hansen et. al. found the probability of extremely hot temperatures are now 10 times as likely as in 1980. That means that extreme temperatures that affected less than 1% of the landmass in 1980, now affect almost 10% of the landmass annually. What we are experiencing now, will likely be the norm for the future.
Congressman Frank Lucas, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, was asked at his town hall meeting in May of 2011 if he would consider investigating the effect of climate change on our food supply. Congressman Lucas said he could not commit to it, but he would consider it. However, more than a year has passed and an investigation has not been undertaken. Recently, Congressman Lucas’ campaign ads point out he is trying to keep food prices affordable by opposing government regulation on the size of chicken cages. However, climate change is a much greater threat to food prices and to our food supply. Rising food prices caused by the heat waves and droughts will certainly affect those in lower income groups and could mean hunger and starvation for people in poor nations.
If you are concerned about food prices and the future of our food supply, please click on this petition on change.org to urge Congressman Lucas to lead the Agricultural Committee in an investigation of the effect of climate change on our food supply. This is an international issue and those from other countries may sign it. Then, please forward a link to the petition to your friends and contacts.
(c) 2012 J.C. Moore
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