In 2006, wheat, soybeans and rice crops failed in several nations around the globe. The result was a 40 percent increase in the food price index. Many will recall that in 2007 food riots occurred in many nations from Mexico to Yemen and beyond. Take note as well that in Dec. 2007 an UN FAQ was released stating that forty nations were facing critical food shortages. Luckily a bumper crop in 2008 helped ease the problem for the masses on the globe – temporarily. Fast forward to today and the news emanating out of Russia, where wildfires have swept into a naval base destroying 200 planes and caused the removal of hazardous materials from the Russian Federal Nuclear Research Center near Sarov, threatening crops and the fragile environment of the tundra.
Russia is the third largest producer of wheat globally, as of July 31 it was speculated that one-fifth of their harvest had been destroyed due to severe drought. Less than two weeks later, we find a line of 600 fires burning over a 1800 mile swath of land. With many of the remaining wheat fields in danger of being burnt to the ground, the result has been a ban on any wheat exports from this nation. This includes wheat flour, barley, rye and corn. In neighboring Ukraine the drought and lack of rain are a contributing factor in wildfires that threaten crops as well. The drought of 2010 has sparked fires in Italy, Armenia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan where Russian helicopters and planes have assisted in fighting the wildfires.
With temperatures in many parts of the former Soviet Unions homeland at 100 F, instead of the normal average of 75 F, the market has already soared 70 percent on wheat futures. And they continue to rally upon the current news that the Russian ban will be in effect until December of this year and possible into next year as well. The winners in this tragic crop failure are Argentina, Australia and the United States. The losers will be the world’s poor who reside in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia as commodity crops make up a larger portion of their dietary consumption. The very same regions of the planet where recruitment for terror organizations is easiest, a hungry man unable to feed his family is a more easily radicalized individual. The world’s excess food supply is shrinking, due to climate change creating crop failures. Now is the time for seriously looking into vertical farming.
There is a larger issue at hand here than crop failure or radicalized zealots: the wildfires that are burning across Russia. Many of these are located along the peat bogs. The fires will have a profound effect upon the peat bogs, and should be of immense concern for everyone, as they are methane sinks holding a vast amount of that dangerous greenhouse gas. The denuding of the landscape may poise a more direct climatic problem as well. Under normal circumstances wind cascades over the tundra and forested expanses of Russia until in drops toward the Equator returning upon the trade winds. Some scientific studies have shown that large portions of this air mass shifted directions last year and headed over the polar regions. They speculate that this caused the harsh winter in the American Northeast unto parts of Europe and accounted for the limited snowfall in Canada. It will be interesting to watch this winter’s season progress and see if the new landscape, which will hold heat more efficiently than a forest environment, will shift the air masses into a more permanent pattern over the polar region. The result may have significant impact upon the trade winds and winter precipitation for eastern North America and the Northern portions of Europe. Not to mention a lessening of the trade winds will slow ocean circulation increasing the heating potential of the world’s ocean, which are already accelerating at a rapid clip.
One thing is for certain, the new landscape that is adjacent to peat bogs will hold more heat. The peat bogs have been releasing more methane since 2006 according to Kathy Walter Anthony ‘Methane: A Menace Surfaces’ (Scientific American, Dec. 2009) and ‘Arctic Plants Feel the Heat’ by Matthew Strum (Scientific American May. 2010.) The question is to what degree and to what extent will the current methane emissions affect climate change? It is obvious to this writer that these fires have edged the human race one step closer to witnessing abrupt climate change. Then again, I’m a word smith, not a scientist. If as many believe we are heading toward abrupt climate change, anthropogenic, the scientific method may just realize the reality of such an event, after its conclusion.