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Aug
13 2010

The implications of fossil fuels on global food supply

Syndicated from: The Bullfrog Blog

Another massive but hidden cost of fossil fuels that is not reflected in the price we pay is its impact, via climate change, on the world’s food supply. In the past few days, there have been two articles in the Toronto Star on the heat wave in Russia and its impact on wheat supply: “Today Russia, tomorrow the world” and “Russia’s climate problem is our problem.” Russia has banned all grain exports for the rest of the world so that Russian demand can be met without rising prices. Following upon the heat wave and the ban, the global price of wheat has risen by over 80% since June. This type of reaction, by countries to restrict trade in the face of scarcity and by the markets to put a value on supply threats, is certainly a likely response if climate change increasingly threatens food supplies. Perhaps more disturbing are the recent findings by Canadian scientists relating to the base of the world’s food pyramid – phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms in the world’s oceans and they account for more than half of the world’s organic matter. Canadian scientists from Dalhousie University have recently published in the journal Nature a report indicating that there is a long-term trend, associated with increasing water temperatures, of a 1% annual global decline in phytoplankton, totaling an astonishing 40% decline since 1950.  If this trend continues, it will have massive negative impacts on the food chain above the phytoplankton. A short informative CBC piece on the findings: If you add the cost of negative impact on the food chain to the price of fossil fuels, suddenly renewable energy starts looking very cheap. Tom Heintzman President, Bullfrog Power

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