During the last six months many places around the world have experienced record low temperatures. Already grain crops have suffered. There is speculation by some scientists that we are entering a cooling period. Russian researchers at Pulkovo Observatory, St. Petersburg, are flatly saying that the Sun is putting out less heat. Approximately every 200 years the sun goes into a “solar hibernation.” This signifies a period of lower global temperatures which have historically reduced crop yields, resulting in higher food prices and famine.
The last “solar minimum” affecting planet Earth ended in the second decade of the 19th century, about 200 years ago. Some readers may recall the fate of Napoleon’s army in Russia, with record low temperatures that killed French troops and horses. Cold periods have occurred repeatedly over the last two thousand years resulting in famine and death by freezing, as well as droughts. With lower temperatures come less water evaporation and cloud formation (i.e., lower average rainfall). Already we are seeing higher grain prices from last year’s drought. If this is a trend, we are certain to see even higher food and energy prices next year.
Crops are sensitive to colder weather at all latitudes. Freezing weather in Florida means lost citrus crops. In the Midwest, colder and longer winters signify shorter growing seasons with reduced wheat and corn production. Countries with significant food production located at far north latitudes, like Russia and Canada, could experience a severe reduction in food output, with global consequences.
Greater insecurity about the food supply would also stimulate purchases by those who want to hold food in the event of future shortages. Upward pressure on global food prices could accelerate on the mere expectation of colder weather (even if warm weather returns). Food importing countries could be placed in difficult financial circumstances, requiring substantially increased payments to maintain food supplies at current levels. This, in turn, could trigger financial problems in many countries – like the countries of Africa and the Middle East.
In the developed world a food crisis would signify a crisis for retail trade as consumers would be spending a much larger percentage of their income on necessities. Without question there would be less cash available for spending on entertainment and non-essentials. Colder temperatures would result in increased energy usage for home and business heating. Whatever we would have paid for energy under the circumstances would cost more during the course of colder and longer winters. In addition, some industries are seasonal. Those that depend on winter weather would flourish. Those that depend on warmer weather (the majority) would lose days or weeks of seasonal activity.
Cooler weather signifies the onset of global droughts as grasslands turn to desert. This means less grazing land for sustaining cattle. Beef prices are already spiking and are expected to reach record-levels this summer. Today’s steak price averages $4.81 a pound while ground beef averages $3.51.
All these factors are already apparent with the onset of what may be the beginning of a global cooling trend. Without question, the impact of weather on the economy should not be underestimated. Already there are indications of more trouble ahead. According to scientists at Pulkovo Observatory in St. Petersburg, “Solar activity is waning, so the average yearly temperature will begin to decline….” If global cooling is real there will be serious consequences: shorter summers, regional droughts, freezes that damage crops. Markets will be impacted as buyers compete for diminishing grain supplies and political instability overtakes food-importing countries.