Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Global Warming’s Agriculture Impacts


Global warming is causing dramatic enough shifts in temperature and precipitation such that downstream effects are starting to show up across the globe.  I picked up the following from an economics blog, but wanted to focus on the likely underlying causality to make a point about the future (source):

Dry conditions extending to Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado may cut crop yields in the U.S., the world’s largest exporter, as too much moisture threatens fields in North Dakota and in Canada. Wheat futures in Chicago are up 50 percent in the past year, after drought in Russia and floods in Australia hurt output and sent global food prices surging. Wholesale beef reached a record this week, and the U.S. cattle herd in January was the smallest since 1958.

Texas is facing its worst drought conditions in 44 years.  Meanwhile, the northern plains have had too much moisture.  As I’ve pointed out before, the Russian drought helped spark the civil unrest that has erupted across the Middle East and northern Africa in recent months.  Floods in Australia, from “average” thunderstorms and some of the strongest landfalling hurricanes on record, have exacerbated the problem.  Now North American crops and meat stocks are suffering.

Part of the cause behind all of this is the effects of global warming.  This is what “just a 1F rise in global surface temperatures” means when the global trend manifests locally.  There is another 1F future warming that will occur, even if we stopped our greenhouse gas pollution problem tomorrow.  How much more warming; how many additional effects are we locking into the climate system because we’re addicted to dirty energy?

These stories will not stop or even meaningfully slow down any time soon.  Instead, the scope and magnitude of temperature and precipitation extremes will continue to increase.  The headlines of tomorrow will not look good, to put it mildly.


2 thoughts on “Global Warming’s Agriculture Impacts

  1. I need to show this post to my husband. He’s complaining that the bonuses from the last few wheat/corn harvests have been bad – and he keeps hearing how futures are up, etc.

    I think we’re lucky anything is growing (our ranch is in eastern CO) and I’m thankful anything is coming through on a bonus check.

    • I didn’t realize you two had a ranch. Or I forgot if you told me. At this point, I agree that you’re lucky anything is growing. Conditions haven’t been terrible out east, but they haven’t been great either. This year might be tougher than recent years.

      My impression regarding futures is speculators are running amok – in all the commodities markets. A few people sitting on tons of cash are trying to make bets so they can make even more cash. Instead of investing in something that is tangible.

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