Feeling the pinch of climate change

Feeling the pinch of climate change

You could soon be forced to pay more for a loaf of bread, and scientists say climate change may be one of the factors at play.

The world supplies of wheat, the grain used to make baking flour, have been sharply reduced by high temperatures and drought in Russia. A United States government report showed that world wheat supplies will be cut by 6.6 per cent this year due to Russia's smaller crop.

Russia broke its high temperature record twice last month. In Moscow, the daily average death toll more than doubled due to the heat. The hot, dry conditions also led to deadly wildfires, which burned almost one third of the country's wheat crops. Russia, one of the world's largest wheat exporters, temporarily banned exports to protect domestic supplies.

Experts are not ready to blame the Russian drought on climate change because they need to do more research. However, they say droughts, heatwaves and wildfires are becoming more common, and climate change could be one reason why.

Temperature increases are most common in northern countries and in the interiors of the continents. This has proved the case in Russia and the US. Countries in Asia and Europe are also facing smaller wheat crops this year due to heatwaves.

There will be enough wheat for everyone in the world this year, but prices will still be much higher because of reduced supplies. Global wheat prices have nearly doubled during the summer.

There will not be a global shortage of wheat because many countries have large stockpiles and there are still wheat exports from India, Canada and Australia. However, this may be a sign of one of the impacts of climate change. Scientists say that rising temperatures could threaten food security on a longer-term basis due to droughts and fires caused by climate change.

So far the jump in wheat prices has not filtered down to the price of bread on Hong Kong's shop shelves, but it is expected to eventually. Wheat and other grains are used as animal feed to produce beef, chicken, eggs and milk, and the prices of these foods are expected to rise - as well as bread.

This will affect poor people more than the wealthy. Most of us spend only a fraction of our income on food, but for poor people, food, even basic supplies without any luxuries, takes up a large chunk of their income. If food prices rise, they may have difficulty buying the food they need.

Climate change can sometimes seem like an abstract problem, with effects that we will not feel for years to come. This is one example of how climate change may already be making an impact on us today.

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