business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post reports that "unusual weather in the Southwest could cause a nationwide salad shortage later this month. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce): Scientists say the weird weather is probably caused by climate change — which means these sorts of problems are likely to happen again."

There have bee two distinct phenomena, "in Arizona’s Yuma County and California’s Salinas Valley, the two places where the United States grows most of its leafy greens. In Yuma, the lettuce harvest, which usually runs from November to April, wound up early because of unusually warm weather. And in central California, which typically picks up the harvest once Yuma is done, heavy precipitation delayed some plantings."

Both, the story says, "have a link to atmospheric warmth," according to scientists.

The story goes on: "Incidentally, these sorts of cascading disruptions aren’t just limited to lettuce — or even to the United States. Britain recently suffered a widely publicized shortage of iceberg lettuce, zucchini, broccoli and cabbage, brought on by extreme weather in Europe’s 'salad bowl,' Spain.

"Closer to home, fruit growers across the Northeast and Midwest have expressed concern that unusually high and fluctuating temperatures could cause crops like apples, cherries, plums and grapes to develop too early and expose them to spring freezes. The Progressive Farmer recently warned that 'almost off the charts' temperatures in Kansas and Oklahoma could put early-growing winter wheat at similar risk, plus expose it to warm-weather pests and diseases."
KC's View:
The Post story goes on to say that "the National Climate Assessment estimated that California and Arizona will have gained 70 extra hot nights per year and 12 to 15 additional consecutive days without rain by the end of the century, because of warming." The implication is that these trends inevitably are going to have an impact how what we grow and eat, which will, of course, affect that food store sell.

I think this is worthy of attention, and of a public policy approach that tries to figure out how best the planet can deal with climate change, regardless of the degree to which people think it is caused by human behavior. This would not include the proposed defunding of research programs - like that run by the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service - that track and forecast weather systems with short-term and long-term implications ... including, as it happens, for the food on Americans' tables.