2080: Global warming leads to floods, droughts, agricultural disasters, hunger

An article in The Washington Post describes studies predicting the effects of global warming on agriculture, in the 2080s:

Several recent analyses have concluded that the higher temperatures expected in coming years — along with salt seepage into groundwater as sea levels rise and anticipated increases in flooding and droughts — will disproportionately affect agriculture in the planet’s lower latitudes, where most of the world’s poor live.

India could experience a 40% decline in agricultural productivity as “record heat waves bake its wheat-growing region, placing hundreds of millions of people at the brink of chronic hunger.”

Africa … could experience agricultural downturns of 30%, forcing farmers to abandon traditional crops in favor of more heat-resistant and flood-tolerant ones, such as rice.” Senegal and war-torn Sudan could have a “complete agricultural collapse.”

Scenarios like these — and the recognition that even less-affected countries such as the United States will experience significant regional shifts in growing seasons, forcing new and sometimes disruptive changes in crop choices — are providing the impetus for a new “green revolution.” It is aimed not simply at boosting production, as the first revolution did with fertilizers, but at creating crops that can handle the heat, suck up the salt, not desiccate in a drought and even grow swimmingly while submerged.

Fortunately, research on the new crops is underway, but it’s a race against time.

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Intelligence briefs

An eclectic collection of discoveries & developments:

A new biosensor developed at the Georgia Tech Research Institute can detect avian influenza in just minutes. In addition to being a rapid test, the biosensor is economical, field-deployable and sensitive to different viral strains. — Georgia Institute of Technology

Brazilian food companies recently made two cross-border acquisitions: JBS (Latin America’s largest beef processor) bought Swift & Co.; and Perdigão (a leading Brazilian food company) bought Plusfood Groep BV in Europe. “While only two data points, we wonder if this foreshadows additional cross-border acquisitions by Brazilian companies in the increasingly global food industry.” — GE Commercial Finance industry newsletter

Sixty percent of Americans are pessimistic about the state of the environment and want prompt action taken to improve its health, according to a national opinion poll. The survey found that 52% of Americans expect the world’s natural environment to be in worse shape in 10 years than it is now. An additional 8% said the environment is in poor or very poor shape and won’t improve. — Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University / Associated Press

India could challenge the position of China as the manufacturing center of the world in the next three to five years because China is becoming too expensive. Labor costs are surging on China’s eastern coast. — Capgemini / ProLogis

Starbucks has always insisted that the company doesn’t market its caffeinated beverages to children and teenagers. But company officials acknowledge that they’re considering introducing drinks and drink sizes suitable for the under-18 set. — MSNBC (10 September 2007)

Intelligence Briefs

An eclectic collection of discoveries:

Prediction: Someday loyalty rewards programs (analagous to frequent-flier miles, etc.) will come to the health care industry. But the industry will have to figure out who pays for it, and how to avoid creating incentives to overuse or abuse the health care system. George Van Antwerp, “The Patient Advocate”

Most Americans (57%) say that restaurants serve portions that are too large. The percentage is even higher among women, highly educated people and people who try to make “healthy choices” when eating out. Decision Analyst Inc.

U.S. legislators are worried about a TV “train wreck” : On Feb. 18, 2009, tens of millions of televisions that aren’t equipped to receive digital signals will become useless pieces of furniture. Members of Congress fear that consumers who don’t get the message will swamp them with angry calls. Associated Press 

ExecRelate is a new online subscription service that provides intelligence on directors, executives and their relationships. The service displays linkages and commonalities such as board memberships, job history, educational background and association memberships. LexisNexis

The “top road travelers” — defined as the 20% of U.S. adults who traveled the most miles in a vehicle in the past 7 days — also tend to be the heaviest users of home and personal technologies (e.g., PDAs, MP3 players, DVD players, HDTV, video games, Internet usage). Scarborough Research