The Business Spectator has an article wondering if the drought in the US will cause another spike in food prices and social unrest - A soaring food price fear.
Markets are bracing for a surge in global political unrest, as the worst US drought in half a century sent corn and soybean prices soaring to record highs overnight.Rolling Stone has an article by Bill McKibben on the state of play in global warming analysis - Global Warming's Terrifying New Math.
The combination of scorching temperatures and a lack of rain has now pushed corn and soybean prices above the peaks they reached during the 2007-08 food crisis. Overnight, the corn futures price climbed above $US8 a bushel for the first time, while that of soybeans hit a record $US17.12 a bushel.
Although the wheat price has not yet hit record highs, it has jumped more than 50 per cent in the past five weeks, and is now above the level it hit after Russia’s crop failure in 2010, which prompted Moscow to impose a ban on grain exports.
Grain traders have been anxiously monitoring the effect of the drought, which is the worst since 1956 in terms of the areas affected. In its weekly crop report, the US government said that only 31 per cent of the corn crop was in “good to excellent condition”, a sharp drop from its estimate of 40 per cent last week. For soybeans, the estimate dropped to 34 per cent from 40 per cent.
But the devastating US drought will have massive global effects. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat – supplying around one-third of these staple grains traded on the global market.
Already, some analysts are warning that the world could be in for a period of intense social and political instability similar to that seen in 2007-08 when soaring food prices sparked riots in dozens of countries. They note that last year’s political instability in the Arab world was partly caused by surging grain prices.
The effect of rising grain prices is most pronounced in poor countries, where people can spend up to three-quarters of their income on food. Because food is such an important part of consumer spending, surging food prices are quickly reflected in a jump in official inflation figures.
If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history.
Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn't even attend. It was "a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago," the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls "once thronged by multitudes." Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I've spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.
When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn't yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.