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Food shortages challenge world governments

1.1 billion people face food shortages according to recent estimates by the World Bank. When grain prices double, people living on $1-2 per day and spending half or all that on food can no longer afford the calories needed. Rice, which feeds close to two billion people worldwide, has been more stable than corn and wheat, but now rice prices are rising, up 20 percent by December says the USDA. This year American farmers reacted to rising corn and wheat prices by planting less rice.

Worldwide global stores of wheat, corn, and rice will drop 2.5 percent according to the USDA, continuing the trend to lower stores. The U.N. says the international situation is likely to worsen.

These shortages are partly due to rampant population growth, soil depletion, over-pumping of water acquifers and climate change. Soil and water once gone cannot be replaced. Prolonged drought turns farmland to desert and too much rain washes soil away. Likewise, grains do not do well in hot weather or in shortened growing seasons as we've seen in Minnesota this year.

Since the primary cause of climate change is the burning of carbon-based fuels, we need to rapidly move to alternatives like wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy production if we are to improve global nutrition. According to dozens of economists the quickest way to send a signal to the financial markets is enactment of a carbon tax. A tax on oil, coal, and natural gas can be revenue neutral if the proceeds are returned to the American people -- the "fee and dividend" approach.

Now that Congressman Collin Peterson is home during the recess, ask him if he will support a tax on carbon. -- Patty Bracey, Citizens Climate Lobby, Brandon, Minn.