The Great Barrier Reef stretches 1,400 miles starting at the northern tip of Australia and it covers an area the size of the state of Montana. There was serious bleaching due to the 1997 and 2002 El Niño events and now back to back bleaching in 2016 and 2017 has destroyed the northern two thirds.
I cribbed that map from a dive site. Their offered locations are all in the destroyed areas and this highly public obituary for the reef is an obituary for their business. Tourism will crash immediately and fishing shortly thereafter, as fish species adjust to the massive disruption.
It’s not just the sea that has warmed; Australia’s heat got so bad a couple years ago they had to add a new color to their heat index.
There’s no relief in sight as the east has experienced record setting heat over the last quarter.
The reef based tourism is gone, but that is a domestic issue. How is all this heat going to affect the wheat crop? It would appear that things are going to go badly in the area that produces the bulk of the crop, and this can be a component of Global Wheat Threats. The last time we had one of those we got Arab Spring in response.
Part of the reason we got Arab Spring in 2011 was due to not just stress on global wheat supplies due to the year’s Russian fires and attendant wheat embargo. The catastrophic floods in Pakistan ruined summer grain crops.
The overheated oceans that killed the Great Barrier Reef in 2016/2017 are also responsible for the record breaking monsoon in 2010 that led to revolution all over North Africa and the Mideast the following year. Visualize the 11,000 miles between Morocco and the Great Barrier Reef on a map. The loss of a reef that most of the world considered an exotic remote destination is a proxy for stuff that can cause trouble on a global scale.
Now consider what the USDA Wheat Outlook has to say:
The Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings report revealed 2017 winter wheat seedings to be the second-lowest on record and the lowest since 1909.
That sounds really bad, but maybe this sounds better to you …
Most notably, 2016/17 ending stocks are raised slightly more than 43 million bushels to 1143.4 million, the highest level since 1987/88, when ending stocks reached 1260.8 million.
But what does it mean in geopolitical terms? Stocks are up, global planting is down 9% from last year? Global stocks are up but there are 108 million people facing Food Insecurity in North Africa and the Mideast. There are about 400 million people in North Africa and around 325 million in the Mideast countries highlighted in the linked post. When 15% of the population are short of food that’s a recipe for big changes.
You guys are going to get tired of the phrase Functional Triage, but I’m going to keep coming back to it. Yemen’s Food & Water Crisis was noted as an issue clear back in 2013 and now it’s boiling over, with half the populace set to starve. Consult the Fragile States Index for 2016 and it looks like the beginnings of another perfect storm.