Corn plants struggle to survive in drought-stricken Indiana. (July 24, 2012)
Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to, well, sweat like a cheese plate, watch corn crops wither to dust and learn that those miracle technologies behind crop yield enhancement can do only so much.
And not having learned it, they will repeat it, of course, the following year, having forgotten over the winter just how hot and dry the northern hemisphere can become.
That’s the problem with fixing global warming, as the economist Paul Krugman writes despairingly. People have short memories. “Let the days grow a bit cooler and the rains fall,” he says, “and inevitably people’s attention turns to other matters.”
And since climate fluctuates, it might well be cooler for the occasional summer, which the climate-change-denial industry will use to postpone action needed to protect the daily lives of our children and grandchildren. And then we’ll be back to a hotter version of this awful summer, having done nothing in the interim to prepare for it.
Commodities brokers notice climate change, though, because it quickly links to profit or loss. The U.S. midwest, dry as powder, grows a third of the planet’s corn and soybeans and exports 40 per cent of what is traded around the world.
Could there be any word more boring to the general public than “commodities?” No, but try “food prices” and ears will perk up. People’s ears, that is. Corn ears are stumps right now, two months after predictions of a warm spring and one of the finest crops in recent years. Then came the drought.
There is a long rolling effect as big crops — corn and soybeans — die. The Financial Times of London has detailed these changes: panic buying in China, Europe and Mexico, a rise in U.S. and Canadian wheat prices as livestock are fed wheat instead of corn, and massive planting of corn and soybeans in South America. Agricultural centres will switch around.