Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Global Warming May Lead to Food Shortages within Months, Rising Sea Level Decades Away

Much of the doomsday messaging about global climate change is focused on the potential impact of rising sea levels. However, the potential problems from rising sea levels are seemingly easy to disregard because it may be decades before the consequences become devastating. On the other hand, it may only be a matter of months before the world is facing serious food shortages. Drought conditions across the globe are reducing crop yields and food shortages could become serious before long. There is an immediacy to the near term impact of extreme weather that is more worrying than the long term problem of rising sea levels.

The U.S corn belt is facing the worst drought since 1988. Only 56% percent of the U.S. corn crop was in good-to-excellent condition as of June 24, a 20-year low for this point in the season according to the USDA. Korea is suffering its worst drought in recorded history. In Europe, crop yields are likely to be reduced by drought in Spain, northern Germany, eastern Italy, Ukraine and southern Russia. In China, severe drought is parching the eastern Anhui province and the central Hubei province. In Africa, due to the combination of drought and armed conflict, more than 17 million people are facing possible starvation in the Sahel region, the zone skirting the southern portion of the Sahara Desert. In South America, the drought during the last growing season resulted in low yields in Brazil and Argentina--both major players in the global grain market, and the two largest producers of soybeans after the United States.

Are the drought conditions in many parts of the world due to global climate change, or are they just normal variations in weather? The fact that the decade long shortage of rain in Australia has come to an end, and the drought has moderated in some parts of Texas demonstrates that weather and rainfall are variable from year to year. However, it is not very challenging to connect the dots and come to a conclusion that there is a connection between global warming and the increasingly frequency of droughts. According to meteorologist Jeff Masters.
The stunning extremes gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability. I suspect that crazy weather  becomes the norm
Global climate change is highly controversial, as are the steps that are appropriate to be taken to minimize its impact. However, it seems to me that for those that want to raise an alarm about the consequences of global warming, is much more compelling to claim that food costs will go up 25% within the next couple of years and that millions will suffer from food shortages, than declaring that the sea level will rise in future decades. It will be harder to ignore a problem that confronts us on every trip to the grocery store than one that is decades off. While the science connecting drought to global climate change is far from settled, the correlation is strong enough that it seems probable that it is only a matter of time until additional evidence of direct causation is found.

Related Post
Should We Worry About Extreme Weather Causing Inflated Food Costs? 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Would Romney Be As Fiscally Irresponsible As Bush?

Bond buyers have been remarkably compliant in allowing the U.S to fund its $15 trillion national debt at low interest rates. However, if the U.S. continues to add a $1 trillion or more annually to the national debt, the consequences for the economy could be disastrous by the end of the decade. If Obama wins the election, the U.S. is almost certain to continue down a path of huge annual deficits. However, if Romney wins would he really cut spending enough to avoid a fiscal calamity? Or would his legacy by closer to that of Geoge W. Bush, who ran up $4.9 trillion in debt during his two terms in office.

Mitt Romney claims the he will keep the U.S. from becoming like Greece, Spain, or Italy, but for the most part has only made vague claims on how he would cut the budget. His platform promise to increase defense spending by $2 trillion over the next ten years requires painfully deep cuts in entitlements if he is to make any real progress on reducing the deficit.

The vague promises that Romney has made to cut spending will not give him a mandate to slash entitlement programs. Given the current stalemate in Congress, it seems unlikely that he would be able to push through much in the way of budget cuts, unless the Republican party gains control of both the House and the Senate. And even if the Republicans gain control of Congress and the Presidency, it seems doubtful that they truly have the political will to make the types of deep cuts to entitlements that would be required to close the budget gap. Thus, it seems likely that regardless of who is President, the U.S. will continue down a path towards fiscal calamity. However, a candidate that talks a good game of fiscal responsibility is probably a better choice than one that does not even have it on his agenda.