You might want to start thinking about stockpiling food and preparing to defend it with your life, as extreme weather brought on by global climate change, such as heavy storms and severe droughts, is a serious threat to food production and could cause serious food shocks and price spikes, leading to an unprecedented rate of starvation and civil unrest in the world. This is according to a report written for the British government by the joint U.K.-U.S. taskforce known as the Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience.
No Longer a Once-a-Century Event
The current pressure on the world’s food supply is already a serious problem as it is, but with the increasing threat posed by global climate change, the danger of severe food shocks in the near future is very real. Experts warned that under past conditions, food shortages were likely to occur only once every one hundred years, but with the recent climate change trend and the extreme weather that is resulting from it, the world is likely to see food shortages happen at least once every thirty years.
The report also stated that knee-jerk reactions from governments around the world could further exacerbate the problem. Such responses include the halting of imports or exports of certain crops or food items. Such an action, while seemingly beneficial for the people of a particular country, could spell absolute disaster for people in other countries, who will most likely experience a sharp spike in the price of food items as a result of an import or export ban.
Interconnectedness is an Asset and an Issue
The experts that led the study and wrote the report studied the production of the world’s most common commodity crops: wheat, soybeans, rice, and maize. They focused on how extreme weather, such as severe droughts, storms, and flooding, could affect the production of those crops in the future.
They said that most of the production of those crops comes from a relatively small number of countries, like China, India, and the United States, so food shocks could result if extreme weather hits those places and causes a disturbance in their food production, because this would greatly impact global food supplies. Because the world has become so interconnected over the past century, supplies from countries that produce more food items could help local food shock problems in other countries, but as a result of that it might also increase food shock problems in the countries that produce those food items due to a rise in demand and exports.
Saipan After Soudelor: A Picture of What is to Come?
A preview of the threat of severe food shocks as a result of extreme weather brought on by climate change can be seen in the situation on Saipan, the largest island in the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). On August 2nd, the island was devastated by the strongest storm of 2015, Typhoon Soudelor. It cut off power and water to the population and caused massive damage to the island’s infrastructure and agriculture. Relief efforts have since been pouring in, and some of the island’s power and water capabilities have been restored.
Unfortunately, the damage to the local food production has been done. Ed Propst, a local Representative in the CNMI Legislature, said in a Facebook post, “It is hard to talk about nutrition when most families just need food in their stomachs. It is really about survival at this point. Hunger requires calories, and with all of our local produce wiped out, we are completely dependent on produce being shipped in from thousands of miles away.”
Reports have also been posted on Facebook of some local businesses raising their prices and price gouging in the aftermath of Typhoon Soudelor and in anticipation of two new typhoons that are on their way to Saipan. If such practices continue, not only will food shocks be a result of the extreme weather, but also civil unrest, as food and supplies become scarce and local residents become outraged at the unethical and seemingly heartless businesses who would seek to profit off of their suffering.
Saipan is now under Typhoon Condition III, which means that another typhoon could hit within 24-36 hours. Another direct hit could spell further disaster for the people of Saipan, causing severe food supply shortages and giving the rest of the world a taste of what is to come as the rest of the century unfolds and proper action is not taken to address the threat of climate change and the food shocks that will inevitably result in the wake of storms, droughts, and flooding.