Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's Getting Hot In Here

Remember those predictions of increasingly unstable weather caused by global warming severely affecting our agricultural productivity? Go back to sleep, nothing to see here.
NAMPHO, North Korea (AP) — North Korea is reporting a serious drought that could worsen already critical food shortages, but help is unlikely to come from the United States and South Korea following Pyongyang's widely criticized rocket launch.

North Korea has had little rain since April 27, with the country's western coastal areas particularly hard hit, according to a government weather agency in Pyongyang. The dry spell threatened to damage crops, officials said, as the country enters a critical planting season and as food supplies from the last harvest dwindle.

In at least one area of South Phyongan Province where journalists from The Associated Press were allowed to visit, the sun-baked fields appeared parched and cracked, and farmers complained of extreme drought conditions. Deeply tanned men, and women in sun bonnets, worked over cabbages and corn seedlings. Farmers cupped individual seedlings as they poured water from blue buckets onto the parched red soil.

"I've been working at the farm for more than 30 years, but I have never experienced this kind of severe drought," An Song Min, a farmer at the Tokhae Cooperative Farm in the Nampho area, told the AP.

It was not clear whether the conditions around Nampho were representative of a wider region. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said it had not yet visited the affected regions to confirm the extent and severity of the reported drought.
NKorean farmers cite grave drought; aid unlikely (Yahoo!)
ROBRES, SPAIN—Fernando Luna, a burly Spanish farmer, yanks a barley sprout from a field as dry as powder. He examines its roots, which are mostly dead, then tosses the stunted shoot away in disgust.

“Worthless! This is worthless!” Luna shouts.

Spain is suffering through its driest winter in more than 70 years and bailed-out Portugal next door is in similar straits. Thousands of jobs and many millions in agricultural output are in jeopardy.

Both nations are desperately short of so much: tax revenues, bank credit, jobs, hope for the future. Now, it won’t even rain.

The landscape in northern Spain is now a palette in shades of ugly. Pale brown fields without crops or pasture stretch off into the distance. A pond for watering sheep has shriveled into a dustbowl. An irrigation canal down the road holds only stagnant water, murky from so much sediment and so little flow.

Luna waves this way and that, distraught over fields he says are doomed to yield zero harvest.
Spain, Portugal face worst drought in 70 years (Totonto Star)
The hosepipe ban covering much of southern England could continue into next year, water companies warned on Monday.

The ban is due to come into force this Thursday, and will remain in place regardless of how much rain falls over the next few months. It is part of a series of measures being put in place to tackle England's drought, which last week spread to Yorkshire.

A spokeswoman for Veolia Water, one of the seven companies imposing the ban, said: "We're almost certain that the ban will be throughout the summer and possibly to the end of the year."

She admitted that if rainfall stayed low over the coming winter, they would be forced to consider extending the hosepipe ban into 2013. "It would stay in place until we felt that it was appropriate to take that off."

The drought has been caused by exceptionally low rainfall during the key winter and spring months known as the "recharge period". For the last two years, rainfall during this time has been 60% of normal levels, leaving river levels as low as they were during the drought of 1976.
Hosepipe ban could continue into next year for south of England (Guardian)

It's seems it's hard to find a country anywhere where something like this is not going on. I wonder if all of this is a part of the Agenda 21 World Socialist Conspiracy as well. Will the effect on agricultural yields be an even bigger concern than Peak Oil in the near term?

And a few posts ago, I wrote about how a die-off is not likely to be some grand apocalyptic event, but a million little tragedies out of sight of the media, a slow decaying of the quality of life for the majority of citizens preventing any kind of coherent action:
"... What brought this thought about was reading the heartbreaking article: Suicides in Greece increase 40%. And I remembered a comment I head from Dmitry Orlov in an interview about how much of his high school class were now dead. Yet there were no headlines and there was never any official crisis or emergency. They did not die in gunfights over scraps of food like in The Road. Rather, more quotidian things like alcoholism, unemployment, suicide, homelessness, exposure, lack of medications and ordinary sicknesses like bronchitis and pneumonia took their lives.  Russia's life expectancy fell dramatically. It's birth rate declined. Public health fell apart. Suicide rates went up. The population shrank. Entire towns became abandoned. In post-collapse Russia there was a slow die-off that occurred outside of the daily headlines that no one seemed to notice. They were ground down slowly by day-to-day reduction in the standard of living, a million little tragedies that, like pixels in an image, looked like nothing until the focus was pulled back."
Add to that another one - deaths caused by increasing global temperatures. Here's Treehugger:
A new report from NRDC that finds that thanks to climate change, most American cities will be seeing an exponential uptick in heat-related deaths (Mat took a look at it here). The conclusion shouldn't be much of a shocker—as the world heats up, more people will perish from that heat. The report, Killer Heat, finds that "more than 150,000 Americans could die by the end of this century due to the excessive heat caused by climate change."

As the NRDC notes, "Illnesses that are caused or made worse by extreme heat -- including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease -- currently lead to hundreds of deaths each year." Well over a thirteen hundred Americans die from the heat every year as it is, and that number will soon balloon to over 4,500. The report is focused only on cities because that's where most of heat-related deaths occur. Kate Sheppard explains over at Mother Jones:

    asphalt and glass amplify the heat and the dense population leaves more people vulnerable. Thirty-seven of 40 cities studied will see increases in heat-related deaths, [the researchers] predict. The hardest hit will be Louisville, Detroit, and Cleveland, researchers found. The average number of deaths in Louisville was 39 per summer from 1975 to 2004. That figure is expected to grow to 257 per summer by mid-century and to 376 by 2100.

That means more stress on already budget-strapped, recession-clobbered cities. More expensive health services, more electricity demand, much, much more unpleasantness. Excessive heat drains productivity, too.
Climate Change is Frying Our Cities (Treehugger)

It's already started, even in Canada!:
Toronto’s medical officer of health has issued a heat alert for the city following a forecast that today’s temperature could set a new heat record.

Today’s high is forecast to hit 33 C, and will be accompanied by high humidity. Toronto’s record temperature for May 18, set in 1987, is 32.5 C.

By comparison, according to Environment Canada, the normal high for late May is around 22 C. The record low, set in 1949, was -0.6 C.

Toronto Public Health recommends cooling down by visiting air conditioned buildings, including seven city cooling centres that are opened to the public during heat alerts.
Toronto weather: Soaring temperature spurs heat alert (Toronto Star)

Certainly rolling brownouts shutting off the electricity for air conditioners won't help that. Take a cue from the newly reactor-less Japan and dress for the weather. And if the heat doesn't get you, maybe the new diseases will:
A little-known life-threatening illness caused by blood sucking insects has been labelled the ‘new AIDS of the Americas’ by experts. The parasitic illness called Chagas Disease has similarities to the early spread of HIV, according to a new study.

Similar to AIDS, Chagas is difficult to detect and it can take years for symptoms to emerge, according to experts writing in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. An estimated 10 million people worldwide are infected with most sufferers in Bolivia, Mexico, Columbia and Central America, as well as approximately 30,000 people in the U.S., reported the New York Times.
The 'new AIDS of the Americas': Experts warn of deadly insect-borne disease that can cause victims' hearts to explode. (Daily Mail)

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