Climate change, water shortages, Peak Oil, Middle East turmoil, soil degradation, crops for Biofuel, population increases andÂ urban sprawl are combining to make the production of sufficient food impossible at some time in the future unless firm action is taken very quickly.
But why the West?
Because the West is absolutely dependent on oil and gas for every part of food production. Cultivating the soil, making the fertiliser, harvesting and drying the crop, transporting and processing are all done by fossil fuels.
There is no fall-back plan BÂ for whenÂ supplies become less then needed. WeÂ don’t have the millions of work horsesÂ and farm workers that did these jobs 80 years ago or the recycling of soil nutrients that kept fertility high. We’re stuck with what we’ve got: massive machines and artificial fertilisers. Nor can we manage with less. Farmers only use optimum amounts of fertiliser already.Â Where would they cut fuel use? They must cultivate, sow, harvest and haul to storage. If they cut out some pesticide applications, yields could fallÂ drastically. Without a doubt, less oil and gas means less food.
We know that at some time we will indeed have less oil and gas. It is of course finite and many experts believe that peak production will happen very soon followed by rapid decline. Â
We also have to accept that much of the remaining oil and gas belongs to countries that are unstable and unfriendly. The Middle East could break out into civil war at any time and terrorists could mount concerted attacks on oil refineries and pipelines. Any large reduction in supplies that lasted more then a few months would have a very negative effect on food supplies.
In many developing countries, even now 50-60% of people still live in villages. Although this is changing fast and their farming is using more and more fossil fuel all the time, they would still be able to adapt better to lower fuel availability and the drop in production might be less severe.
In the West we are now totally dependent on oil and natural gas for the production and distribution of food. As our own supplies of oil and gas are now declining, we are becoming more dependent on imports for our oil and gas and therefore for our food.
Islamic militants, waging war on the West, will want to disrupt these supplies while at the same time undermining certain oil rich regimes.
The Yorkshire Post on April 28th 2007 reported, “Saudi police have arrested 172 Islamic militants, some of whom trained abroad as pilots so they could use aircraft to attack the country’s oilfields.Â The ministry issued a statememt saying the detainees were planning to carry out suicide attacks againstÂ ‘public figures, oil facilities, refineries….and military zones’ -some of which were outside the kingdom. Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Mansour al-Turki said, ‘They had reached an advanced stage of readiness and what remained was only to set the zero hour for their attacks. They had the personnel, the money, the arms.”
In my opinion it is only a matter of time before some of these attacks are successful.Â Should anything be done?
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced a series of reports on the effects of climate change to come. One report says, “By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people (in Africa) are projected to be exposed to an increase of water stress due to climate change.” The Independent newspaper stated, “….. some of the projected changes are horrifying – and only just around the corner.”
African agricultural production is projected to be “severely compromised by climate variability and change,” with decreases likely in the area suitable for agriculture, the length of the growing season and yield potential. Â In some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 20% by 2020.
Asia is not far behind, with many negative impacts expected. They include a water “double whammy” as Himalayan glaciers irreversibly melt, first increasing flooding in glacier-fed rivers from the meltwater, then decreasing water resources as the glaciers disappear.
Asian coastal areas, especially the big cities in the seven “mega-deltas” from India’s Ganges to China’s Yangtze, will be at greatly increased risk of flooding, with an associated increase in death due to diarrhoeal disease, while by 2050, crop yields in central and south Asia may drop by 30%.
In Latin America, water supplies available for human consumption are predicted to be “significantly affected” by changes in rainfall patterns and the disapearance of Andean glaciers. Parts of the Amazon rainforest are likely to turn into semi-arid savannah.
Exxon Mobil is the world’s most profitable corporation and also the most valuable. It has a market value of about $425 billion and in 2006 made more profit then any company in history-almost $40 billion. There has recently been anÂ about-turn in its comments on climate change that should be noted by those who are still sceptical. This April Fortune magazine said, “Public documents show that Exxon has long given money to organizations that publish papers, run websites, and write letters that global warming isn’t happening, isn’t proven, or isn’t connected to human activity. The company recently stopped funding some of these outfits.
In Febuary, however,Â CEO Rex Tillersen said at an energy conference, “We know our climate is changing, the average temperature of the Earth is rising, and greenhouse-gas emissions are increasing.”
Companies like Exxon, greedy for ever more profit, have probably lost the world several crucial years in the fight against climate change.
Farmers Weekly, dated 21st April 07, reported that EU grain stocks are very tight. David Sheppard, managing director of Gledell Agriculture explained, “We’ve had significant volumes of grain in Intervention stores for the last few years, but the commission has effectively sold its safety valve.” This is a very dangerous situation because stocks are low worldwide and if we had a poor harvest for the next one or two years, panic buying would clear the shelves.
Next Page »