Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Screw the math, the scorched farmland is terrifying

Connecting the dots between climate change and your groceries



I'm on the e-list for Bill McKibben and his worthy outfit, If you were of reading age then, you might remember the stir created by Bill's first book, The End of Nature, when it came out in 1989.

On my shelf sits a tatty first edition. An illustration of planet Earth with a firey penumbra graces the cover, but what strikes me is how young and hopeful Bill looks in his photo on the back flap. He's been working awfully hard these 30-some years and no doubt his determination has bordered despair over our little progress on climate change, as his book is the first on the topic for a general audience.

In one of the many lines that could have been written today, he quotes a 1957 paper by scientists at California's Scripps Institute of Oceanography, who were discussing the rising CO2 levels resulting from "millions of smokestacks, furnaces and car exhausts" and the oceans' warming.

"Human beings are now carrying out a large-scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past, nor be repeated in the future." Hello, people? That was a clarion call from 1957...

So when I saw the first line of's latest email last week (Dear friends: Last week, Rolling Stone magazine published a piece of mine that I think may be the most important writing I've done since The End of Nature...) I at once stopped what I was doing and read.

To share the gist of it, here's the opener to McKibben's Rolling Stone piece, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math".

"If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere — the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe..."

The rest of article, which has pretty much gone viral, goes on with equally disturbing "math."

I remember tracking those 3,315 high-temperature records at the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) website, as well as the 15,000 record highs that were set in March in the U.S. (7,755 daytime records, 7,517 nighttime records). A good chunk of them were in America's corn belt.

The other terrifying bit of math you can find on the NOAA site is that as of July 3, 56 per cent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing drought conditions which, for the most part, have continued.