THE VINE AUGUST 5, 2010
Now and again you hear Russian officials sound pretty blithe about global warming. In 2003, Vladimir Putin joked that a little extra heat would help Russians "save on fur coats and other warm things." More recently, a spokesman in the Natural Resources Ministry put it this way: "We are not panicking. Global warming is not as catastrophic for us as it might be for some other countries. If anything, we'll be better off." But in light of the ongoing Russian grain catastrophe, I wonder if that's still the case:
Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, has announced a ban on grain exports after millions of hectares of crops perished in the worst drought in more than a century.
High temperatures, lack of rain and wildfires have devastated more than a third of cultivable land in Russia, the world's fourth largest grain exporter.
News of the ban pushed wheat prices to a 23-month high on commodities markets and raised concerns about a boost in food prices worldwide.
As always, the precise way to link this to climate trends is like so: It's hard to say whether this specific drought is a direct result of man-made global warming or a weird blip. What we do know, however, is that as we keep pumping greenhouse gases into the air, the planet will keep heating up, and scenes like this one are going to become more and more frequent. And the results don't look pretty.
Update: Here's Russian President Dmitri Medvedev striking a very different note on climate these days:
Everyone is talking about climate change now. Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past,” he says. “This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.