Thursday, August 5, 2010

Russia bans wheat exports

Think that weather changes don't have consequences?
Russia banned all exports of grain on Thursday after millions of acres of wheat withered in a severe drought, a portentous decision at a time when crop failures caused by heat and flooding span the northern hemisphere.

...The decision caused an immediate and sharp rise in the already high global price of wheat. It rose more than 8 percent in early trading on the Chicago Board of Trade on Thursday, after having increased about 90 percent since June because of the drought in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and parts of the European Union, and floods in Canada.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration summarizes the dire situation in Russia.
High temperatures and sparse rainfall dominated the climate of the world's largest country during June and July. With temperatures hovering 8–12°F (4–8°C) above average across a large swath of Russia, daily record high temperatures of 91°F (33°C) and 95°F (35°C) were recorded in Moscow on July 16th and 17th, breaking records that dated back to 1951 and 1938, respectively. On July 26th, the city recorded its highest temperature ever—98.9°F (37.2°C)—breaking the previous record of 98.2°F (36.8°C) set 90 years ago. The hot weather has had deadly consequences. More than 1,200 drowning deaths were reported as people tried to escape the heat across Russia. The worst drought conditions since 1972 destroyed 22 million acres (nine million hectares), an estimated 20 percent of the nation's crops, including grain, vegetable, and fodder. Additionally, a state of emergency was declared as 948 forest fires covering 64,000 acres (26,000 hectares) were burning in 18 provinces. Twenty-six forest fires and 34 peat fires were burning in the Moscow region on the 26th, leading to dangerous air pollution levels. Mosekomonitoring, the Moscow governement agency in charge of monitoring air pollution, said that smog levels were five to eight times greater than normal. According to Rianovosti, Russian meteorologists stated that the summer of 2010 was the hottest on record for the country.
A single season or year of bad weather does not equate to climate change. However, a warming climate would contribute to more heat waves and to localized droughts.

Critics of climate change policies are quick to point out the costs of those policies. The situation in Russia reminds us that unabated climate change has costs as well.