Friday, August 6, 2010
Russian response to wildfires gives an early glimpse of climate change impact
It cannot be proved that the wildfires now devastating western Russia are evidence of global warming. Once-in-a-century extreme weather events happen, on average, once a century.
But the Russian response is precisely what you would expect when global warming really starts to bite: Moscow has just banned all grain exports for the rest of this year.
At least 20 percent of Russia’s wheat crop has already been destroyed by the drought, the extreme heat—circa 40 º C for several weeks now—and the wildfires. The export ban is needed, explained Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, because “we shouldn’t allow domestic prices in Russia to rise, we need to preserve our cattle and build up supplies for next year”. If anybody starves, it won’t be Russians.
That’s a reasonable position for a Russian leader to take, but it does mean that some people will starve elsewhere. Russia is the world’s fourth-largest grain exporter, and anticipated shortages in the international grain market had already driven the price of wheat up by more than 80 percent since early June. When Putin announced the export ban, it immediately jumped by another eight percent. More >>>