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Climate Change Indicated in Forced Migration of 1.7 Million from Mekong Delta

Global sea level rise caused by fossil fuel burning is an issue that is creating worsening impacts to cities, nations, and civilization itself. And according to recent reports out of Vietnam, 1.7 million people have migrated from the low-lying Mekong Delta region over the past decade. Primary causes included climate change and poverty.

(Sea level rise now threatens all low-lying regions with increased flooding, loss of crops, and, in some cases, forced migration. Recent reports indicate that hundreds of thousands have already left the Mekong delta as a result.)

Rising oceans have forced Vietnam to erect a system of dykes of up to 4 meters in height in an increasingly complex system of coastal defense barriers. These barriers have saved lands from inundation as the ocean off the low-lying Mekong Delta continues to rise year-after-year. However, the dykes have not prevented salt water from moving further and further up the Mekong River. And during recent years, this salt water has inundated soils used for rice production.

Such salt water inundation has wiped out crops for many farmers. For example, in the Soc Trang region, the farmers of Thang Dong saw their crops completely wiped out during 2013 as salt water seeped into the soil and killed off food-producing plants. In low-lying near coastal regions, the story has been much the same for Mekong farmers. And with less reliable crops come increasing poverty.

(Salt water increases in soils as seas rise. The Mekong Delta is just one of many low-lying regions under threat by human caused climate change and its related sea level rise. Image source: Vietnam Times.)

When crop production is no longer tenable due to climate change impacts, many farming families have been forced to move on. A majority cite poverty as the root cause. But 14.5 percent are more aware — noting that climate change was what ultimately forced them to leave.

The Delta regions of the world are among the most agriculturally productive on Earth. But, as with Mekong, all such regions face ocean flooding and salt water invasion. As a result, a key aspect of global food production is under threat. A factor that has recently weighed in high average global food prices and an increase in the number of under-nourished people by 38 million last year.

 

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How Global Warming Induced Drought Could Impact US Fuel Production

Do you know what’s the single largest source of US ‘oil’ production? If you said the Bakken fields in North Dakota, you’re wrong.

The largest source of US fuel production does lie in the heartlands. In fact, it’s the breadbasket. Yes, US ethanol production, which is now counted as ‘all liquids oil,’ is the greatest individual provider of US liquid fuels production. Currently at more than 800,000 barrels per day, ethanol is the largest single contributor to US fuels. And when combined with other biofuels produced in the US, that number reaches more than 1 million barrels per day.

But the current US drought is having a devastating impact on US farm production. Livestock farmers are so hard hit that they’re asking Congress and the EPA that the US ethanol mandate, put in place to aid US energy security, be relaxed for the drought. A third of all members of the House of Representatives have already signed a petition for an ethanol waiver.

Meanwhile, the EPA and the Obama Administration are pushing to keep the mandate, saying that stocks are still at adequate levels.

Livestock farmers have been outraged by spiking corn prices and an increase in prices to other feed such as hay. Many have been forced to sell their animals and a few have abandoned farming altogether. That said, the nation’s corn belt has dramatically benefited from the ethanol mandate, as has US energy security. The result is that there could be a clash between US livestock and US corn interest groups.

Currently, despite political pressure, it doesn’t appear likely that US ethanol mandates will be relaxed. However, if this happens, US ethanol production could fall, bringing down total US ‘oil’ production with it.

It is an ironic twist of fate that US biofuels production could be hampered by greenhouse gas emissions from an energy source it is intended to help replace. But this fact serves to underline how damaging continued expansion of fossil fuel use has become. Not only does it endanger US and world food security, it is also a threat to future US and world energy security as well.

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