Melting Glaciers Could Hike Price Of Our Daily Bread


Image courtesy of Ajay via flickr

Leave it to Lester Brown to help us connect the dots between global warming's far-flung effects. In a recent update to Plan B 3.0, Brown points out in devastating detail how the fast, fast, fast melting of mountain glaciers, especially in the Himalaya and Tibet-Qinghai ranges threatens food prices and food security in China and India, and also paradoxically, in the U.S.

Mountain glaciers contribute a lot of irrigating water to both China's Yellow River and Yangtze River basins and India's Ganges River basin. Already stressed underground water resources won't likely make up the difference if these three major rivers were to become seasonal (dry in summer). China and India are now the first and second producers of wheat and rice (the U.S. is third), and reductions in those crops will cause prices to rise (grain prices are already at historic highs, in part due to ethanol production) and especially in India's case, food security to fall.

As Brown puts it: "

The world had never faced such a massively predictable reduction of grain harvest. It's a special irony that the glaciers are melting in the two countries most effected in food security by rising CO2 emissions. These are the same countries planning for the most new coal power plants."
What's to be done? Read Brown's prescription after the jump.
To avoid losing the glaciers entirely and setting off the perfect storm of a food security crunch, Brown would like to convince China and India's policy leaders to look at the science behind his conclusions and make glacier-saving energy policy. Eschew coal, and invest instead in efficiency and renewable sources. Not new solutions, but Brown is counting on the swift pace of social change that can come about when people have a new understanding, or paradigm-shift, on important issues. In China, Brown says rooftop solar water heaters have become massively popular (40 million installed) without government incentives, and he thinks solar thermal plants could play a huge role in restructuring energy economics in India and China, where demographics make the problems acute.

But what Brown says he believes, is that while in past food crop crises, the U.S. as a huge grain producer could decide to cut off exports to other countries, China's economic clout and it's huge trade surplus and purchasing power will make it much more difficult this time for the U.S. to buffer itself.

"Like it or not, Chinese consumers might be sharing shortages in China with U.S. consumers."
Via ::Earth Policy Institute

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