Posted by: Dr Churchill | February 3, 2012

Band Aid – Food Aid

A rapidly changing climate and a vastly hotter world are in store for us.

And it could be much more difficult than we thought to feed everyone in this warmer world.

This is clearly evident in the seat of the agricultural revolution miracle of Punjab.

Now the place best known for  water table losses, for the bankrupt farmers and farmer suicides and for being the battle ground against Monsanto and Dow GM crops…

Still Punjab is the precursor of things to come.

Because today, satellite images of northern India’s Punjab region, reveal, that the current extreme temperatures are cutting wheat yields by a third or more…

What’s more, models used to predict the effects of global warming on our food supply in the near future, may have underestimated the problem by another third.

Here in India’s breadbasket, the Ganges plain, winter wheat is planted in November and harvested as temperatures rise in spring. And that has been the practice for Millennia. Yet current studies reveal the losses… as David Lobell of Stanford University in California used nine years of images from the MODIS Earth-observation satellite to track when the wheat in this region turned from green to brown — a sign that the grain is no longer growing.

What he found was startling. Because he found that the wheat turned brown earlier when average temperatures were higher, with spells over 34 ºC having a particularly strong effect. He then inferred yield loss, using previous field studies as a guide.

This revealed a much stronger effect of temperatures on yield than previous studies. Lobell’s data predicted that yield losses in the Ganges plain will be around 50 per cent greater from an average warming of 2 ºC than existing models. “It surprised me a little how much crop models underestimate the observed effects,” says Lobell. They might have especially underestimated the impact of hot spells.

Wheat is the world’s second-biggest crop, and provides a fifth of the world’s protein, according to CIMMYT, a major international wheat lab based in Mexico. Loss of wheat yields is a major threat to food security.

Wheat evolved in cool uplands and has few defences against heat. Crop scientists have long known that its photosynthetic machinery can be damaged by night-time temperatures over 34 ºC.

Such damage to mature wheat triggers premature ageing of the kind Lobell saw: the plant stops photosynthesising, turns from green to gold, and prepares to drop its seeds. If this happens while the wheat is still funneling nutrients into the seeds, the result is anaemic grain. Models based on smaller-scale studies in warm wheat-growing areas like Australia suggest that yield drops 5 per cent for every 1 ºC the average temperature climbs above 14 ºC.

Lobell’s work suggests losses could come sooner and be far greater. “This is an early indication that a situation that was already bad could be even worse,” says Andy Challinor of the University of Leeds, UK.

Two-thirds of wheat in poor countries, and one third, in rich countries – half the world’s total crop – is at risk from warming, says Hans-Joachim Braun of CIMMYT.




Previous estimates suggested that by 2050, global warming could cut wheat yields by 30 per cent in places like India – a figure that is now considered outdated and far too optimistic.

The actual loss of wheat and the resultant food capacity will be double that at least… by 2050.

Yet the wheat stock and the global yields need to rise by more than 50 per cent by then in order to feed the growing population.

But that isn’t going to happen with the world’s resources all used up in all the other emergency situations that a warming planet will wrought upon us.  And the food aid available has already evaporated as seen in places like the Horn of Africa drought brought famine where only ten million climate refugees proved impossible to save. Now the strain on the global food aid programs has also been exposed we are certain that countries will keep any surpluses for their own people and not for gift giving… to those deemed expandable.

A Malthusian future appears to be on order here, but there you have it.

Now my question to you is this:

How do you feel about this?


Do you think, that we are approaching the tipping point, or we are already there, tipped over on the floor and don’t get it, as we are squirming drunk on fossil fuel vapours with the head clearly in the porcelain throne?

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