Global warming increasing the threat of food shocks


Researchers say that extreme weather events, which impact the production of food, could take place in seven years out of every ten years by the end of the century. Authors of a recent study argue that the over reliance on today’s global trade might make the production shocks even worse. The biggest impacts will likely be felt across the Middle East and Africa.

Poor harvest added to low stock of grains during 2008 combined with a number of other factors produced a huge rise in prices of cereals with an index of prices by the United Nations peaking at over 2.8 times higher than at the turn of the century.

The Global Food Security Program’s Tim Benton said we must cope with the increase in demand by sustainable intensification, but suddenly we have a catastrophic year and a large chunk of the calories in the world is lost, and all will feel it.

During 2010 and 2011, a heat wave across Russia led to the worst drought in the country in more than 40 years. The drought decimated the year’s grain harvest and led indirectly to food riots across countries in North Africa as bread prices rose astronomically quick and high.

Now UK and U.S. researchers have analyzed the possibilities of events of extreme weather causing these food shocks as the world gets warmer over the next century.

Looking at soybeans, corn, wheat and rice production, the scientists found that the chances of a one in a 100-year production disruption would likely increase to a one in a 30-year event before 2040.

As of 2070 and onward, the scientists estimate severe shocks, which could drop production globally by 10%, could take place in 7 out of every 10 years.

Kirsty Lewis an author of the study from the Met Office in the UK said it was very difficult to characterize the extreme events and how often they will occur, but it is very clear through research that the events that are quite rare today will become more frequent moving ahead.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN said the demand for food from increasing populations would increase 60% by 2050.


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