Mr. Speaker, this summer Canadians experienced weather extremes like none in history causing droughts in eastern Ontario and the failure of fruit crops in southwestern Ontario.
In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the highest August temperature since 1885, resulting in drought in the Midwestern states and devastating the corn crop. A report by Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University and Stephen Vavrus of the University of Wisconsin showed that the extreme weather is directly related to the loss of Arctic summer ice cover. This month, Arctic sea ice declined to its lowest level ever, beating the previous record set in 2007. The North Pole's ice cap is now 50% below what it was in 1979 to 2000.
Francis and Vavrus have shown that the increased loss of Arctic summer ice cover is adding enough heat to the ocean and atmosphere to redirect the jet stream, the fast-moving high-altitude river of air that steers weather systems across the northern hemisphere. The sixth lowest Arctic sea ice extents have occurred during the past six years. As a result of such extensive sea ice melt, the study says that the jet stream is behaving differently. It is becoming slower with bigger troughs and ridges.
As more ice melts, the dark ocean is revealed, absorbing more solar energy and heating the water. The heat is released back into the atmosphere in the fall and winter increasing the air temperatures over the Arctic, which in turn reduces the temperature differential between the air in the Arctic and the air further south.
Historically, this temperature differential has driven the jet stream, which circles the earth from west to east and forms a barrier between the atmospheres in the Arctic and elsewhere. However, as the temperature difference has declined between the north and the south, the speed of the jet stream has slowed by about 20% in the last few decades. Additionally, as the jet stream has slowed and its north-south movements have become more pronounced, generally moving further north. When it does move south, these intrusions are heading further than previously.
The changing jet stream is the main culprit behind the increasingly extreme weather events. The known negative impacts of these extreme weather events are crop failures across North America and higher food prices. For example, it has been estimated that as much as 70% of the U.S. corn crop failed this year because of drought in the Midwestern states. The apple crop in southwestern Ontario failed due to a period of unusually high temperature in March and farmers in eastern Ontario are paying as much as $140 for a bale of hay due to drought this July.
The failure of the U.S. corn crop alone will result in food costs as high as 80% to 90% for food on grocery shelves containing corn. Meanwhile, beef, pork and dairy farmers are now reporting that they will have to decrease the size of their herds as they cannot afford the fodder, which will result in more shortage and drive costs up.
Potential negative impacts from higher food prices include increased unemployment, criminality and civil unrest. Lower crop and animal yields will likely increase unemployment in the food processing industry as fewer people will be required to prepare the food. People in southwestern Ontario who work in the fruit industry will have no jobs while cattle, pork and dairy farmers will lay off hands in order to afford fodder for their animals. These job losses will have a ripple effect across all sectors. Demands for goods and services will be reduced.
Further, as we have seen increased theft of gas due to higher prices, so will increased food prices result in theft. As history has shown, increased food costs or shortages have resulted in civil unrest—