News roundup for Fri, Jul 08, 2022

In short:
  • The US should again expect temperatures in the 100s for the rest of the week
  • Coastal areas, such as San Francisco, will be flooded much sooner than sea-level rise models had predicted
  • Palm oil, wheat, and corn prices dropped 30-40%
Economy, food security

US meat, poultry, fish, and eggs prices jumped 14% from April 2021 to April 2022, the biggest increase since 1979, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Palm oil, wheat, and corn prices dropped 30-40%, which should ease inflation worries for some. Urea prices have also been dropping lower.

Via Bloomberg

Despite the war, Ukraine’s harvest is underway and they are expected to harvest at least 50 million tonnes of wheat this year, which is not bad in comparison to the record 86 million tonnes harvested in 2021. However, Ukraine doubts that they’ll be able to reach a deal that will allow for the grain stuck in the ports to be finally released. The European’s Union wheat production is slightly lower than in other years, as drought is forcing Italy and Romania to ration water. Algeria and Canada are forecast to have a good output which could ease food scarcity worries around the globe, but nearly 10% of the global population is facing hunger.

US farmers and ranchers are feeling squeezed by the high cost of diesel. With the war in Ukraine reducing grain output, some farmers are able to balance out costs by selling corn and soybean for more, but they worry that when grain prices will come down, fuel prices will not follow and farming/ranching won’t be sustainable anymore.

Climate-related food shortages are driving more Puerto Ricans to farming. If you want to have a go at growing food, here’s our beginner’s guide to survival gardening, and related posts.

Here’s a cool story about how an Arizona desert town is growing food and provides nutrition education through a community garden.

Energy

The EU voted to keep some uses of natural gas and nuclear energy in its taxonomy of sustainable sources of energy. Europe’s taxonomy is its classification system for defining “environmentally sustainable economic activities” for investors, policymakers, and companies. Gas emits nearly 59% as much carbon dioxide as coal, according to the US Energy Information Association. Nuclear power produces no emissions, although it draws criticism due to the problem of storing radioactive waste. The EU still has to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by the end of this decade. Read here about why Europe is looking to nuclear power to fuel a green future.

The Norwegian government intervened to end an oil and gas strike. Norway is Europe’s second-largest energy supplier after Russia. The strike had pushed gas prices to their highest level in four months. A sustained drop in Norway’s output could hurt efforts to replenish gas stocks ahead of the winter, as well as raise the risk of a catastrophic energy shortage. Europe is bracing for further gas supply cuts next week, while economists predict a recession. Berlin and Paris are planning bailouts.

A little fun:

The US exported more than 5 million barrels of reserve oil to Asia and Europe last month as domestic refineries ran at full capacity.

Nuclear power gets a new push in the US. Politicians from both parties seek to prolong and even expand the use of reactors in light of the challenges associated with meeting clean energy goals and new electricity demands.

Finland launches the world’s first commercial sand battery for energy storage. Through the use of a simple heat exchanger buried in the middle of the sand, this device is capable of storing an impressive 8 megawatt-hours of energy. Whenever energy is needed, it is extracted again as heat. According to the company, the efficiency factor is up to 99%.

The prototype for UK’s first low-carbon fusion plant is going to be operational by 2040. Also, autonomous drones could soon run the UK’s electricity grid and save millions in maintenance costs.

Climate change, environment, extreme weather

The US should again expect a heat dome and temperatures in the 100s for the rest of the week. Records are expected to be set across the Great Plains and South. As a rule of thumb: keep in the shade (or somewhere with AC), and hydrate. Never leave unguarded pets or children in the car, even for small periods of time: temperature can rise very quickly in a closed vehicle, and cracking a window open does not help. You can review our heat survival guide and relevant posts here.

Just a month ago we had looked at how California’s Central Valley is sinking, and now San Francisco has the same issue. Actually, coastal areas in general are subsiding and they are doing so at an increased pace, according to a new study. This means that coastal areas will be flooded much sooner than sea-level rise models had predicted.

Italy declared a state of emergency in five northern regions because of drought. Italy has guaranteed water for agricultural use until July 9. At least 30% of Italy’s rice crops have already been lost. Low rainfall has also decreased hydroelectric power production by 50%. Hydroelectric power counts for 15% of the country’s energy production. To add to the problem, salty sea water has infiltrated the Po river (flowing through the main breadbasket) by 30 Km (19 miles). The US and Australia have also been recently in the news for facing increasing salinity.

A Cincinnati suburb is under state of emergency after an EF2 tornado tore through it.

86% of Texas is in drought:

NOAA’s new supercomputers are already operating. Right now they are making sure that everything works fine, and they hope that the new and improved hurricane prediction system, the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System, will be ready by 2023’s hurricane season. After that, they will revamp the Global Prediction System, which projects weather conditions out to 30 days or so, and the regional system, which is used to forecast severe weather. The two supercomputers have a speed of 12.1 petaflops, meaning that they can perform about 12 quadrillion calculations per second.

Bristol’s Clean Air Zone will start in November. Under the new program, petrol vehicles that do not conform to Euro 4 emission standards will be charged.

The US government is developing a solar geoengineering research plan.

Meta: How Landsat chronicled 50 years on a changing, fiery planet.

Opinion: Feeding insects to cows could make meat and dairy more sustainable. Not only it would void the need for cultivating hay and other grains for the animals’ consumption, but a study showed that feeding black soldier flies larvae it decreased the amount of methane produced.

Monkeypox

The World Health Organization will meet again on July 18 to reassess whether the monkeypox outbreak constitutes an international public health emergency. Here’s a good explainer of what PHEIC means.

Commercial labs have started monkeypox testing. They can conduct 10,000 tests a day.

Covid

BA.4 and BA.5 are becoming the dominant variants in both the US as well as Australia. The US reduced its testing capabilities and so it will be harder to monitor the trajectory of the virus. In good news, our current shots could be upgraded to target the new variants. BA.2.75 is a new variant of concern with the potential to cause a wave.

The US will allow pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid.

The rest

Florida is 9,000 teachers short for the upcoming school year. Industry experts say nobody wants to be a teacher anymore.

The US has too many pets, and not enough vets.

The FBI and MI5 issued an unprecedented joint warning about Chinese spying, calling Beijing the “biggest long-term threat to economic security.”

More than one billion people in China have had their personal data leaked, and it’s been online for over a year.


  • 18 Comments

    • Pops

      Great round up. I especially appreciate the food price info as lots of folks, myself included, have concerns. I watch futures prices and farm reports casually and have noticed a slightly more optimistic tone re: US conditions. If a little rain comes in July prices might ease a bit this fall and allow folks whose pantry is not quite stocked to catch up.

      And thanks also for pointing out “US” corporations (supra-nationals in practice) are exporting our allotment of fossil fuels just as fast as technically possible. A great peeve of mine is the rampant exploitation of our natural resources, they are finite, and there is no more once gone.

      Exporting from the “SPR” is the metaphor of the age, we are rapidly consuming, exporting, off gassing our resilience. Every hurricane, oil well, wildfire, strip mine, deep fossil aquifer pump depletes our natural wealth, our ability to recover from future insults.

      But I digress, LOL, Thanks again!

      13 |
      • Hardened Pops

        “Exporting from the “SPR” is the metaphor of the age”—well written!

        6 |
    • Greg P

      I was just looking over some reporting on the monthly jobs numbers & was struck by the almost casual mention of the continued impact of COVID on employment.  According to the Household Pulse Survey from the Census Bureau 3.7 MILLION people were unable to work because they were sick with COVID and/or were caring for someone with COVID.  Alarming ( at least to me) is that this number is UP from 3.1 million in the late April/early May survey.  

      We know from numerous credible sources that the number of COVID infections are being grossly underreported since  a) many people are testing at home and b) the government tracking has gone off the rails since the number of deaths has (relatively) plummeted.  However,  Dr. Jha (White House COVID response coordinator) said on TV just the other day, we are still averaging 300+ deaths a day which adds up to >100,000 deaths a year.  

      I know that we are all tired of this pandemic, but I would urge you all to really evaluate the precautions you take in large, crowded, indoor spaces.  As for myself, I’ll be flying in a couple of weeks & have already decided to utilize a high efficiency mask for my trip.  My primary care physician, a very cautious guy, came down with COVID just last week while on vacation.  He’s doing well, but despite being vaxxed and boosted still couldn’t dodge the virus.

      Good luck everyone & remember to be prepared and not just scared!

      12 |
      • Pops Greg P

        I bought a couple of boxes of 3M 8511 Respirator, N95, Cool Flow Valve (10-Pack) a couple weeks ago on Amazon for about $17ea. I notice just now they are back over $20.

        5 |
    • Robert LarsonContributor

      A sad occurrence that happened this week was the bombing of the Georgia Guidestones.

      The Wikipedia page tells about it’s history, purpose, and destruction but I’ll sum it up a little here.

      In 1979 a man had this “American Stonehenge” built to serve as a compass, calendar, and clock that would be capable of withstanding catastrophic events such as upcoming social, nuclear, and economic calamities.

      In the most popular 8 languages, covering most of humanity, was an inscription meant to guide humanity to conserve nature after a nuclear threat. There were also holes and slots cut into the granite to be used with the sun and stars to tell time and serve as a compass.

      Sad to see this magnificent tool of reconstruction after an apocalyptic event be destroyed.

      Before:

      t_27f14b89335741c6a18ac7c43d5e0106_name_What_were_the_Georgia_Guidestones_62c7179abe6f9a78cea507e1_1_Jul_07_2022_18_16_05_poster

      After:

      guidestone

      6 |
      • Hardened Robert Larson

        Yoko Ono said the inscribed messages were “a stirring call to rational thinking”.

        The destruction is a visceral expression of how our culture relates to rational thinking these days.

        10 |
    • Ockham

      An inexpensive window punch like this can be cheap insurance if you need to get someone or something out of a locked car in a hurry. Use a side or rear window (the windshield is laminated glass and will not shatter), preferably on the far side from whoever you’re trying to get to to avoid covering them in glass. I’ve kept one in the glove box of every car I’ve owned. I’ve also heard good things about the Resqme window punch/seat belt cutter combos, but I can’t testify to those personally.

      3 |
      • GB Ockham

        I have a Resqme in my car after watching it in action against other tools like it on Southern Survival (on Netflix, but for some reason can’t access the website right now to link it.).

        The Reqme is little , but does a mighty job on the show. Thankfully, I haven’t had to test mine yet.

        5 |
      • Bradical GB

        I always thought that BattlBox subscription service would be pretty gimicky and have cheap survival products in it, but to see that the crew actually has tested out the products and show you in a tv series makes me want to sign up now. 

        Thanks for the show recommendation. My budget isn’t going to be very happy though.

        2 |
    • Eric

      In-depth analysis of an apartment fire in NYT. The fire was contained in a single apartment but 17 people died (and more than 60 injured) all over the building due to the smoke. They explain how safety systems failed and how it affected evacuation efforts. Lots of lessons for fire safety.

      https://archive.ph/sEG72

      For those with NYT subscription, this direct link has much better visuals.

      https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/07/08/nyregion/bronx-fire-nyc.html

      3 |
    • brownfox-ffContributor

      What you can do about it:

      Have a productive weekend.

      8 |
    • Amy S.

      Great round up.  Thank you.  I clicked on the link about the Arizona town and I not only enjoyed that story — but many more on The Modern Farmer site.  I used to subscribe to the print magazine and didn’t know it had gone digital so thanks for connecting me to a source of many amazing and informative stories. 

      3 |
    • Anthony Corless

      Thanks for the report!

      2 |
      • Gideon ParkerStaff Anthony Corless

        The link above takes you to a previous news roundup which then links to an article about how the drought is causing some towns in the central valley to sink nearly a foot.

        Here is the section of the previous news roundup:

        sinking

        1 |
      • My bad! I’d skimmed it. I’ve edited the comment to remove any suggestion that the “California’s Central Valley is sinking” link was incorrect.

        1 |
      • Gideon ParkerStaff Anthony Corless

        Oh no worries! I skim and miss things all the time! 🙂

        1 |
      • Pops Gideon Parker

        Thanks for the link. I’d just underline the point made that this is fossil water being pumped in the Central Valley, Oglala and elsewhere. The sediment and water were deposited together so the sand particles were buoyed up to an extent by the water creating large pores.

        Now, eons later, we pump out the water. The sand, now without the water to hold it open, collapses the pore spaces.

        Not only is the fossil water now gone, but the pore spaces are much smaller so the capacity is a fraction of what it was. 

        The central valley is toast and it makes me sad because I grew up on that sand.

        4 |
      • Gideon ParkerStaff Pops

        That is sad that the land you grew up on is never going to be the same. Would piping in the water from somewhere else be the best solution to stop the destruction and allow it to be a viable place to live for the future? They probably should stop pumping it from under their feet.

        1 |