If extreme weather becomes the norm, starvation awaits

George Monbiot writes: I believe we might have made a mistake: a mistake whose consequences, if I am right, would be hard to overstate. I think the forecasts for world food production could be entirely wrong. Food prices are rising again, partly because of the damage done to crops in the northern hemisphere by ferocious weather. In the US, Russia and Ukraine, grain crops were clobbered by remarkable droughts. In parts of northern Europe, such as the UK, they were pummelled by endless rain.

Even so, this is not, as a report in the Guardian claimed last week, “one of the worst global harvests in years”. It’s one of the best. World grain production last year was the highest on record; this year’s crop is just 2.6% smaller. The problem is that, thanks to the combination of a rising population and the immoral diversion of so much grain into animal feed and biofuels, a new record must be set every year. Though 2012’s is the third biggest global harvest in history (after 2011 and 2008), this is also a year of food deficit, in which we will consume 28m tonnes more grain than farmers produced. If 2013’s harvest does not establish a new world record, the poor are in serious trouble.

So the question of how climate change might alter food production could not be more significant. It is also extremely hard to resolve, and relies on such daunting instruments as “multinomial endogenous switching regression models“. The problem is that there are so many factors involved. Will extra rainfall be cancelled out by extra evaporation? Will the fertilising effect of carbon dioxide be more powerful than the heat damage it causes? To what extent will farmers be able to adapt? Will new varieties of crops keep up with the changing weather? [Continue reading…]

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One thought on “If extreme weather becomes the norm, starvation awaits

  1. pabelmont

    Capitalists and their supporters in government appear to believe that there must be “growth” for capitalism to continue, and that beief in a need for growth must — at some level — be understood by them as a need for population growth, else why do they do nothing to stop population growth.

    And of course population of advanced nations must grow at the youth end if the advanced nations are not to become top-heavy with aging populations — ever larger as medicine improves life expectancies and political power demands availability of medical services for the aging.

    What the governments and universities seem not to be doing is thinking about a range of (or even a single) steady-state non-growth model(s) for world economy whereby the productivity of machines can provide enough food and housing, etc., for all people, at all ages, and independent of their age or productivity — in return for an end to population growth and (I should think) a return to a far smaller population (as was done in the middle ages during the plague years).

    what we’re doing now makes no sense.

    Caveat: Methinks BIG BANKS will not grab at this idea.

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