Severe drought threatens Chinese wheat crop

Low rainfall in the north has put nearly half of the country’s harvest at risk

A severe drought in northern China – considered the country’s breadbasket – has hit almost 43% of the country’s wheat crop this winter, senior officials have warned.

Low rainfall since October has affected more than 9.3m hectares (229.71 acres) of land in northern China across six major grain-producing provinces, according to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters. Last week it warned that 3.7 million people and 1.85 million livestock had lost access to drinking water.

Vice-premier Hui Liangyu has urged local officials to make tackling the water shortage a priority, state media reported today. Beijing has set aside 100m yuan (£10m) of funding to help farmers combat the problem and have sent specialist teams to the worst affected areas. Provincial governments are planning to seed clouds to ensure it rains.

Henan Daily reported that the drought is the province’s most severe since 1951, with no rain for 105 days. It warned that up to 63% of the region’s wheat crop is threatened.

Read moreSevere drought threatens Chinese wheat crop

Cowskulls and dust: Worst Drought in 100 Years grips Argentina


Farmer Edgardo Vazquez walks by dead cows in Stroeder, Argentina, Monday, Jan. 19, 2009. Farmers nationwide are demanding the government’s help after a year long drought that has killed nearly one million animals and destroyed crops. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

STROEDER, Argentina (AP) – Skeletons of livestock are piling up in the scorching sun of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer as the worst drought in a generation turns much of Argentina’s breadbasket into a dust bowl.

The nation’s farm sector stands to lose $5 billion this year alone – a huge blow to the economy of Argentina, a top world exporter of soy, corn, wheat and beef – as well as to the government of President Cristina Fernandez, which faces billions of dollars in debt payments this year.

Wheat fields that once supplied flour for pasta-loving Argentines now resemble deserts, and spiny thistles are all that survive on cattle ranches in southern Buenos Aires province.

Nothing edible grows, said Hilda Schneider, a 65-year-old rancher who has lost nearly 500 cows to starvation.

Read moreCowskulls and dust: Worst Drought in 100 Years grips Argentina

Texas drought worsens, cattle dying

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) – Drought conditions in Texas are so bad cattle are keeling over in parched pastures and dying.

Drought conditions worsened significantly in the past week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday. Seventy-one percent of the state is now in some stage of drought, up from 58.3 percent last week.

A week ago the two worst drought designations – extreme and exceptional – covered 9.1 percent of the state. This week the two categories cover 15.1 percent of the state, with a circle near San Antonio and Austin widening in all directions. Only the eastern and southeastern parts of Texas are without any drought status.

It all results in death for dozens of cows in Bastrop, south of Austin. At Dr. Lee Davis’ veterinarian clinic, up to 10 cows a week have been brought in for treatment over the past month. They fell in pastures from weakness due to lack of grazing forage, and most didn’t survive, Davis said.

“The problem is they’re not getting enough energy because the grass is dead,” Davis said. “Everywhere you go there’s no grass. It’s nothing but dirt.”

Read moreTexas drought worsens, cattle dying

Dry South Australia buys in water

The dry bed of the Hume Weir, Murray-Darling basin Australia is facing its worst drought in a century

Australia’s driest state has decided to buy in water supplies amid fears it will run out next year.

South Australia said it had spent tens of millions of dollars to ensure Adelaide, Australia’s fifth-largest city, and the state had enough water.

State Premier Mike Rann described it as a “prudent and sensible” measure.

Drought has become a regular occurrence in South Australia, which already receives the least rainfall of any Australian state.

Lack of rainfall and a sharp reduction in the amount of water flowing into the Murray River meant the state could not guarantee water levels for 2009.

The state’s water security minister, Karlene Maywald, said she had purchased 61 billion gallons (231 gigalitres) of extra water for 2009.

Read moreDry South Australia buys in water

Longest, hottest drought on record, says Bureau of Meteorology

THE long drought affecting southern Australia is officially the worst on record.

Bureau of Meteorology head of climate analysis David Jones said the 12-year drought that was devastating southwest Western Australia, southeast South Australia, Victoria and northern Tasmania was “very severe and without historical precedent”.

Drought has gripped the Murray-Darling Basin since late 2001. It has worsened this year, as rainfall totals for the past three years have set record lows in many regions, including many critical to the Murray River.

Dr Jones said the rainfall figures were similar to the severe drought that lasted from 1939 to 1945, and the Federation drought, which ran from 1895 to 1903.

“Those three droughts, in terms of rainfall, are comparable,” he said. “But this drought is a lot hotter than those two previous droughts. And those two droughts finished, whereas this one is continuing.”

Read moreLongest, hottest drought on record, says Bureau of Meteorology

With Spotlight on Pirates, Somalis on Land Waste Away in the Shadows


Above, a severely malnourished baby lay unresponsive on Thursday as the mother and father sat nearby in a feeding center in Afgooye, Somalia.

AFGOOYE, Somalia – Just step into a feeding center here, and the sense of hopelessness is overwhelming.

Dozens of women sit with listless babies in their laps, snapping their fingers, trying to get a flicker of life out of their dying children.

Little eyes close. Wizened 1-year-olds struggle to breathe. This is the place where help is supposed to be on its way. But the nurses in the filthy smocks are besieged. From the doorway, you can see the future of Somalia fading away.

While the audacity of a band of Somali pirates who hijacked a ship full of weapons has grabbed the world’s attention, it is the slow-burn suffering of millions of Somalis that seems to go almost unnoticed.

The suffering is not new. Or especially surprising. This country on the edge of Africa has been slowly, but inexorably, sliding toward an abyss for the past year and a half – or, some would argue, for the past 17. United Nations officials have called Somalia “the forgotten crisis.”

Read moreWith Spotlight on Pirates, Somalis on Land Waste Away in the Shadows

Millions forfeit water to Olympic Games

Farmers in Baoding face ruin from a man-made drought

THOUSANDS of Chinese farmers face ruin because their water has been cut off to guarantee supplies to the Olympics in Beijing, and officials are now trying to cover up a grotesque scandal of blunders, lies and repression.

In the capital, foreign dignitaries have admired millions of flowers in bloom and lush, well-watered greens around its famous sights. But just 90 minutes south by train, peasants are hacking at the dry earth as their crops wilt, their money runs out and the work of generations gives way to despair, debt and, in a few cases, suicide.

In between these two Chinas stands a cordon of roadblocks and hundreds of security agents deployed to make sure that the one never sees the other.

The water scandal is a parable of what can happen when a demanding global event is awarded to a poor agricultural nation run by a dictatorship; and the irony is that none of it has turned out to be necessary.

Read moreMillions forfeit water to Olympic Games

Rising food prices pushing east Africa to disaster

More than 14 million people in the east Africa region require urgent food aid due to drought and spiralling cereal and fuel prices, aid agencies say.

In an emergency appeal launched today, Oxfam warns that millions of people in Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Djibouti and Kenya are fast being pushed “towards severe hunger and destitution”. Earlier this week the UN said it needed £200m to avert a humanitarian disaster.

The hunger crisis is worse than the last regional emergency in 2006, when drought caused 11 million people to need assistance, because of the added impact of the global food price increases. Poor families are struggling to buy staples such as maize and wheat, which have more than doubled in price over the past 12 months.

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Sheikh flies Lamborghini 6,500 miles to Britain for oil change

His black-and-gold supercar costs £3,552 to service at an approved dealer – on top of the £20,000 to freight from Qatar to Britain. Source: Sun

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“In previous droughts most people on the margins found ways to cope,” said Peter Smerdon, of the World Food Programme. “But the simultaneous increase in food prices this time around means they are cutting down on meals and taking their kids out of school in order to try to get by. More people are falling over the edge.”

Read moreRising food prices pushing east Africa to disaster

Drought threatens drinking water for a million Australians

SYDNEY (AFP) – Up to a million people in Australia could face a shortage of drinking water if the country’s drought continues, a report on the state of the nation’s largest river system revealed Sunday.

The report said the situation was critical in the Murray-Darling system, which provides water to Australia’s “food bowl”, a vast expanse of land almost twice as big as France that runs down the continent’s east coast.

Read moreDrought threatens drinking water for a million Australians

Turkey: Drought Cuts Food Production in Half

“Production has been halved to 300 kilos (661 pounds) per 1,000 square meters (250 acres), even in well-irrigated parts of the region, as rainfall declined to one-fortieth of normal levels, Referans daily said on Wednesday, citing farmers and farming associations.”

The government has selected 35 of its 81 provinces as eligible for financial assistance, Erdogan said. Farmers who have lost more than 30 percent of their harvest to drought can claim assistance and also postpone any agricultural loan payments by a year, he added.

Read moreTurkey: Drought Cuts Food Production in Half

Australia is suffering one of its worst droughts on record

Life is hard for wheat and livestock farmers in the south, as they face a possible third year of nearly no rain.

July 12, 2008 POOCHERA, AUSTRALIA — Glen Phillips kneels down, scoops up a handful of dirt and squashes it in his fist to test whether the soil in this dry patch of the Australian Outback is ready to take a crop of wheat.

“It should clump together when you squeeze,” says Phillips, whose family has lived off the land on the edge of the Great Australian Bight since 1949. “That’s how you know it’s good to plant, it’s moist enough to hold the roots.”

He opens his hand and the earth sifts dustily between his fingers. Phillips looks up, lifts his hat slightly and squints into an empty blue sky with no sign of rain.

“We’ll plant anyway,” he says. “We don’t have a choice.”

Australia is suffering one of its worst droughts on record, hurting wheat farming just as the world faces a food crisis. Australia is usually the world’s third or fourth-largest exporter of wheat. But exports dropped 46% from 2005 to 2006, then fell 24% last year.

Most of its exports go to the Middle East and Southeast Asia to make bread and cereals, but the fall in supply has led to soaring prices. A ton of Australian wheat costs $367, compared with $258 in early 2007, an increase poorer countries can ill afford.

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“When they pay high prices, they pass on an increase to their poorest people, who can no longer afford it,” says Kunhamboo Kannan, director of agriculture, environment and natural resources at the Asian Development Bank. “Just look at Egypt.” Riots over rising bread prices and shortages have led to at least 10 deaths there this year.

Read moreAustralia is suffering one of its worst droughts on record

Worsening Drought Threatens Australia’s “Food Bowl”


An agricultural region that produces over 40 percent of Australia‘s fruit, vegetables, and grain is seriously threatened by the country’s ongoing drought, which has been developing into a crisis over the last decade. Scientists say that the two mighty rivers that irrigate the Murray-Darling Basin (an area the size of France and Germany combined) received the lowest amount of replenishing autumn rain since record-keeping began over a century ago.

Neil Plummer, acting head of the National Climate Centre, described rainfall during the southern hemisphere autumn as “an absolute shocker”, and said: “I’m gasping for good news”. Wendy Craik, chief executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, said the river system’s condition was “critical… tending towards flatlining”. She added: “We have got it on life support” [The Independent].

Related articles:
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Floods wipe out US crops
The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic
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The degrading ecosystem may cause strife between farmers and environmentalists, as the government has said it might be forced to compulsorily acquire water from irrigators, a move that would anger and devastate farm families [The Daily Telegraph]. Conservationists say the mandatory water buy-backs are necessary to protect the wetland habitat of native birds, turtles and fish.

Read moreWorsening Drought Threatens Australia’s “Food Bowl”

Australia faces worse, more frequent droughts: study

PERTH (Reuters) – Australia could experience more severe droughts and they could become more frequent in the future because of climate change, a government-commissioned report said on Sunday.

Droughts could hit the country twice as often as now, cover an area twice as big and be more severe in key agricultural production areas, the Bureau of Meteorology and Australia’s top science organization, the CSIRO, said in a joint report.

The study also found that temperatures currently defined as “exceptional” were likely to occur, on average, once in every two years in many key agricultural production areas within the next 20 to 30 years, while spells of low rainfall would almost double in frequency from current figures.

Australia, suffering its worst drought in 100 years, has seen its wheat exports tumble in the past two years.

The Pacific nation is normally the second-largest wheat exporter in the world, but the harvest has been decimated to just 13 million tonnes last year because of drought.

Read moreAustralia faces worse, more frequent droughts: study

World Bank: Biofuels behind rising food prices

LONDON (AFP) – Biofuels have caused world food prices to increase by 75 percent, according to the findings of an unpublished World Bank report published in The Guardian newspaper on Friday.

The daily said the report was finished in April but was not published to avoid embarrassing the US government, which has claimed plant-derived fuels have pushed up prices by only three percent.

Biofuels, which supporters claim are a “greener” alternative to using fossil fuel and cut greenhouse gas emissions, and rising food prices will be on the agenda when G8 leaders meet in Japan next week for their annual summit.

The report’s author, a senior World Bank economist, assessed that contrary to claims by US President George W. Bush, increased demand from India and China has not been the cause of rising food prices.

“Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases,” the report said.

Droughts in Australia have also not had a significant impact, it added. Instead, European and US drives for greater use of biofuels has had the biggest effect.

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The European Union has mooted using biofuels for up to 10 percent of all transport fuels by 2020 as part of an increase in use of renewable energy.

Read moreWorld Bank: Biofuels behind rising food prices

DROUGHT-STRICKEN CYPRUS GETS WATER FROM GREECE

NICOSIA, Cyprus – A Greek tanker carrying about 1.76 million cubic feet of water arrived in the Cypriot port of Limassol on Monday to help the drought-stricken island replenish its dwindling water reserves.

The tanker is the first in a fleet of ships chartered by the Cypriot government at a cost of $65 million to provide water to towns now experiencing emergency rationing.

With the Mediterranean island’s 17 main reservoirs now at critical levels – just seven percent full – Cypriots have endured meager water rations since March.

The main water pipelines have been turned on for only a few nights each week. And some residents, particularly those living in high-rise apartment blocks, have complained of not getting any water at all because pressure has been insufficient to push the water to rooftop storage tanks.

Cypriots have been forbidden to wash their cars or water their gardens. Underground water pumped from boreholes has also become scarce.

Read moreDROUGHT-STRICKEN CYPRUS GETS WATER FROM GREECE

Nation’s Spies: Climate Change Could Spark War

Environmental groups have been warning for years that tense parts of the world could get even worse with the advent of global climate change, and even spark whole new conflicts. Now, the nation’s spies are saying pretty much the same thing.

The U.S. intelligence community has finished up its classified assessment of how our changing weather patterns could contribute to “political instability around the world, the collapse of governments and the creation of terrorist safe havens,” Inside Defense reports. Congress was briefed on the report last week. And on Wednesday, leading spies — including National Intelligence Council chairman Dr. Thomas Fingar and Energy Department intelligence chief Rolf Mowatt-Larsen — will testify on the Hill about the 58-page document, “The National Security Implications of Global Climate Change Through 2030.”

In addition to examining how weather could add stress to governments with a weak grip on power … the authors mulled a spectrum of second- and third-order consequences for Washington policymakers to consider — including indirect security concerns like impacts on economies, energy, social unrest and migration.

Foreign-policy concerns were also weighed, including how flooding, rising water levels or drought might create humanitarian crises. Also examined was how extreme weather events could challenge the response capabilities of governments around the world.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier in the world’s most unstable regions,” a source familiar with the document tells Danger Room. “It’s like a match to the tinder.” Just think about the fights over water already under way in the Middle East and Africa, or the tensions exacerbated by the hurricanes and tsunamis in Asia.

The document was originally supposed to be unclassified. But then the policy recommendations — and warnings about trouble spots — got more and more detailed.

Richard Engel, deputy national intelligence officer for science and technology … said in a little-noticed speech last month at the University of Delaware that if the findings of the assessment were made public, “It would frustrate the execution of U.S. foreign policy.”

“We wanted to get down to something that might be actionable for the policy community,” Engel, a former Air Force major general and test pilot, said. “So we had to be very specific.”

“Generally, the Earth’s climate is changing, it has always been changing, so that’s not anything but a blinding flash of the obvious,” Engel added. “We really want to understand extreme weather events because they are very important as they potentially put at risk the infrastructure.”

The assessment is stamped “confidential,” the lowest level of classification. And our source says that Fingar & Co. is promising that nearly all of the document will come out in Wednesday’s hearing, before a joint session of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Intelligence Community Management Subcommittee. Also testifying are former British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett, retired Admiral Paul Gaffney and the Army War College’s Kent Hughes Butts, all of whom have previously raised alarms about climate change’s strategic impact. Lee Lane, with the American Enterprise Institute, has been pushing the issue of “geoengineering” in response to global warming. And Marlo Lewis, with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, calls the whole thing a “myth.”

Lewis’ presence before the panel may be a bit of a sop for the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, many of whom opposed the idea of using the nation’s spies to investigate these issues at all.

But the nation’s military leadership, at least, is paying closer attention. “Climate change and other projected trends will compound already difficult conditions in many developing countries. These trends will increase the likelihood of humanitarian crises, the potential for epidemic diseases, and regionally destabilizing population migrations,” the Army says in its 2008 posture statement.

“We are [f]acing challenges from multiple sources: a new, more malignant form of terrorism inspired by jihadist extremism, ethnic strife, disease, poverty, climate change, failed and failing states, resurgent powers, and so on,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told an audience at American University in April.

Read moreNation’s Spies: Climate Change Could Spark War

California faces water rationing due to drought

Californians could face mandatory water rationing unless they drastically reduce consumption because of a state-wide water crisis, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said.

The warning came as he declared the first official drought in California in 17 years, citing two years of arid conditions that threaten the state’s massive agriculture industry and increase the risk of wildfires such as those that destroyed 1,500 homes last October.


Kern River in California is dry and is expected to remain so

The governor called for a state-wide reduction of 20 per cent and issued an executive order commanding water officials to direct supplies to the driest areas, help districts conserve and aid stricken farmers who have already suffered huge losses.

Mr Schwarzenegger said mandatory restrictions could follow if residents and water authorities failed to make cutbacks and another dry winter ensued.

“We must recognise the severity of the crisis that we face,” the Republican governor said.

California has never resorted to statewide water rationing to cope with shortages. Since the last drought, however, its population has shot up as water supplies have decreased.

The governor himself does not have the authority to impose statewide rationing but the Department of Water Resources could slash water supplies to local authorities, who in turn would have to enforce limits.

Some regions already impose rationing with the threat of punitive measures for violators and many areas have appealed for conservation. Restrictions on outdoor water use, such as bans on washing cars or driveways, are in force in some cities along with orders stopping restaurants from automatically serving drinking water.

This week, Los Angeles approved a fleet of “drought busters” to patrol residential areas and enforce a ban on some types of outdoor water use. More districts are expected to impose limits of some kind as the long, hot days of summer loom.

This spring, the driest on record, follows two years of below average rainfall. The situation has been exacerbated by reduced mountain snow packs, which normally provide much of the state’s supply, and a court order limiting the amount of water that can be taken from a key river delta to protect a threatened fish.

“We’re suffering the perfect storm, if you will,” said Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.

The prospect of cuts alarmed some sectors of the business community who feared it could harm productivity and increase the chance of full-blown recession.

Read moreCalifornia faces water rationing due to drought

Canada’s water crisis ‘escalating’


In Quebec, St. Lawrence water levels were so low this fall in places like Haut Gorge park that water had to be pumped in from Lake Ontario. Photograph by : Allen McInnis, Canwest News Service

Experts expect climate change to present serious water challenges, many of which already exist

In Quebec, St. Lawrence water levels were so low this fall in places like Haut Gorge park that water had to be pumped in from Lake Ontario.

In Quebec, St. Lawrence water levels were so low this fall in places like Haut Gorge park that water had to be pumped in from Lake Ontario.

Canada is crisscrossed by innumerable rivers, some of which flow into three oceans.

Yet Canada’s fresh water isn’t as abundant as you may think. And it’s facing serious challenges and the looming menace of climate change, which is expected to exacerbate Canada’s water problems and leave more of the world thirsting after our precious liquid resource.

“They say you need a crisis before people get jerked into taking responsible action,” says Chandra Madramootoo, a water researcher and founding director of McGill University’s Brace Centre for Water Resources Management.

“When are we going to finally say, ‘Jeez, we’re not as water rich as we thought we were and maybe we better start doing something?’ Is it going to be the day when we [must] ration water?”

Some think the crisis is already here. They say it’s time to take action — by, for example, conserving water, cracking down on polluters, preparing for the effects of climate change and coming to the aid of waterless poor in the developing world.

(Important article! Please continue to read. – The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreCanada’s water crisis ‘escalating’

Prince Charles: Eighteen months to stop climate change disaster

The Prince of Wales has warned that the world faces a series of natural disasters within 18 months unless urgent action is taken to save the rainforests.

In one of his most out-spoken interventions in the climate change debate, he said a £15 billion annual programme was required to halt deforestation or the world would have to live with the dire consequences.

“We will end up seeing more drought and starvation on a grand scale. Weather patterns will become even more terrifying and there will be less and less rainfall,” he said.

“We are asking for something pretty dreadful unless we really understand the issues now and [the] urgency of them.” The Prince said the rainforests, which provide the “air conditioning system for the entire planet”, releasing water vapour and absorbing carbon, were being lost to poor farmers desperate to make a living.

He said that every year, 20 million hectares of forest – equivalent to the area of England, Wales and Scotland – were destroyed and called for a “gigantic partnership” of governments, businesses and consumers to slow it down.

“What we have got to do is try to ensure that these forests are more valuable alive than dead. At the moment, there is more value in them being dead,” he said.

Read morePrince Charles: Eighteen months to stop climate change disaster

Spain’s worst drought for a generation leaves water and comradeship in short supply

Llosa del cavall reservoir in Sant Llorencs de Morunys, north of Solsona

Spain is suffering its worst drought in more than four decades, pitting the country’s regions against each other in a fierce battle over water resources.

There has been 40 per cent less rain than usual since October 1 across the nation as a whole, according to the Meteorology Institute, although in some regions the impact has been far worse. Mediterranean regions such as Catalonia and Valencia have been the worst affected – they have had less rain than at any time since 1912.

Farmers in Catalonia fear they could lose their crops altogether if it does not rain in coming weeks, and Britons with homes on the coast could soon face restrictions on water.

The situation in Barcelona – Catalonia’s capital and top tourist draw – could soon become critical. Water reserves there are at 19 per cent of capacity – they must be shut down when they reach 15 per cent because there is too much sediment near the bottom. José Montilla, president of Catalonia, said: “We must prepare for the worst.”

Read moreSpain’s worst drought for a generation leaves water and comradeship in short supply

China – Drought

RSOE Emergency and Disaster Information Service
Budapest, Hungary2008-03-20 15:16:03 – Drought – China

GLIDE CODE: DR-20080320-15931-CHN
Date & Time: 2008-03-20 15:16:03 [UTC]
Area: China, Hebei, Nei Mongol, Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Jilin, Shandong, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region,

!!! WARNING !!!

Description:

A number of regions in the north and northeast part of China were still fighting a continuous drought that could affect spring farming. Serious drought began to hit many big cities and prefectures of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the north, including Hulun Buir, Baotou, Ordos and Xilingol, early this month because of reduced rainfall since December, the autonomous regional meteorological bureau said Thursday.

Different localities received a maximum of 20 millimeters of rainfall over the past four months, up to 70 percent less than the corresponding period of previous years, according to Li Yunpeng, official with the meteorological center of ecology and agriculture. The drought would continue in the region until the first springrain comes in mid April, said Li. Meteorological authorities called for measures to maintain soilmoisture for the upcoming spring sowing. A severe drought in the neighboring Hebei Province had affected 3 million hectares of cropland and left residents in some areas short of drinking water. It is the 12th consecutive spring drought in the province, which only received seven millimeters of rainfall on average since the winter, about 60 percent less than normal years.

Read moreChina – Drought

Could we really run out of food?

Biofuel production, poor harvests and emerging nations’ growing appetites are emptying the world’s pantry, sending prices soaring. It’s a good time to invest in agricultural stocks.
As if a bear market, U.S. credit crunch, energy crisis and city financing emergency were not enough for one year, experts say the world is now facing down the barrel of the worst catastrophe of all: famine.

The very idea that the modern world could run out of food seems ludicrous, but that is the flip side, or cause, of the tremendous recent increase in the cost of raw wheat, corn, rice, oats and soybeans. Food prices are not escalating because speculators have run them up for sport and profit, but because accelerating demand in developing nations, biofuel production and poor harvests in some areas have made basic foodstuffs truly scarce.

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(In this article: …global grain reserves are “precarious,” at just 1.7 months of consumption, down from 3.5 months of reserves as recently as 2000.”…)

Read moreCould we really run out of food?

Drought could close nuclear power plants

Southeast water shortage a factor in huge cooling requirements

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LAKE NORMAN, N.C. – Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.

Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldn’t result in blackouts. But they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the region’s utilities could be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.

Already, there has been one brief, drought-related shutdown, at a reactor in Alabama over the summer.

“Water is the nuclear industry’s Achilles’ heel,” said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. “You need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants.” He added: “This is becoming a crisis.”

Read moreDrought could close nuclear power plants

Food fear beats climate change

A WORSENING global food shortage is a problem far more urgent than climate change, top Australian scientists have warned.
The Australian Science Media Centre briefing heard why prices for some staple foods had risen by as much as 60 per cent in the past year, and how dramatic price rises are expected to sweep across all staples in the near future.

Read moreFood fear beats climate change

Drought spreading in Southeast – USA TODAY

ATLANTA – Georgians will be able to water their azaleas and swim in their pools this spring after the state eased a ban on outdoor watering.Barely 400 miles away, residents of Raleigh, N.C., should be so lucky. Their city council just enacted the toughest water restrictions available, essentially banning all outdoor watering in Raleigh and six surrounding towns.

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Read moreDrought spreading in Southeast – USA TODAY