Over 500 wild fires are raging across Russia, killing 50, leaving several thousand homeless, and devastating the country’s agriculture. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today banned exports of grain as drought and wildfire decimated crops across the country. Temperatures topped 100 F in a part of the world where the average summer temperature is around 75 degrees. Some 150,000 people, mostly volunteers, are fighting the blazes.
The effect on the country’s farms will have severe ripple effects. The Guardian reports that more than one-third of the arable land in Russia has been damaged. Russia is the world’s fourth largest grain exporter; wheat prices today hit a 23-month high, leading to fears of rising global food prices.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released a report summarizing the multiple indicators that the earth is warming: the 1980s was the warmest decade on record at the time. Every year of the 1990s was warmer than the 1980s’ average. And every year of the 2000s has been warmer than the 1990s’ average. Between record heat waves in Russia and the eastern U.S. and historic floods in Pakistan, 2010 could be the year where more people wake up to the potential effects of global warming. One fervent convert is the Russian president himself. Dmitry Medvedev made a direct link between the current wildfires and climate change, saying on July 30: “Practically everything is burning. The weather is anomalously hot. … What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate.”
Citizens have been affected by pollution from the smoke. This ITN video shows stunning aerial footage of the fires and documents the dangerous smog that engulfed Moscow and other cities.
Russia’s high temperatures are expected to continue through August.
Photo: Still from ITN news footage, http://www.youtube.com/user/itnnews