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Sierra Daily

Oct 15, 2012

Climate Change Will Break Your Heart

Farmer hugging dairy cowThere was a heartbreaking story in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle about climate change. That was the real subject; on its face, however, it was about the expected loss, by year's end, of 100 California dairies.

The nation's drought and high corn prices are devastating California's $8 billion dairy industry to the point where farmers can't afford to feed their cows - and their professional trade organization has been regularly referring despondent dairymen to suicide hotlines.

 "This is what climate change looks like," author Rebecca Solnit told her legions of Facebook followers: "suicidal farmers in places far from the initial disaster."

Sadly, the effects of drought are not limited to California or even the United States. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, doughts in the U.S., Ukraine, and elsewhere have resulted in world grain reserves that are dangerously low:

“We’ve not been producing as much as we are consuming. That is why stocks are being run down. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events next year,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). With food consumption exceeding the amount grown for six of the past 11 years, countries have run down reserves from an average of 107 days of consumption 10 years ago to under 74 days recently. 

Time to call the climate-change hotline.

Photo by egeeksen/iPhoto

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber. 

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