High food prices are contributing to MidEast unrest

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"High food prices are contributing to MidEast unrest"

And, yes, extreme weather and high oil prices are major contributors to those price hikes

Leading experts, reported in the media, have made the case that high food prices are one of the triggers of MidEast unrest.  Bizarrely, people who were once full-time professional journalists now dismiss the serious reporting of their fellow journalists — and are apparently completely unable to distinguish between underlying causes and triggering events.

I quoted all that in my Sunday piece, as well as Robin Niblett, director of the Chatham House, who was interviewed at Davos (click here) and said the Egyptian riots “were driven partly of course by the rise of food prices.” Similarly, NPR notes:

Rising prices are “leading to riots, demonstrations and political instability,” New York University economics professor Nouriel Roubini said during a panel discussion. “It’s really something that can topple regimes, as we have seen in the Middle East.”

That high food prices are historically a major driver of political unrest is pretty much an uncontroversial historical fact.  Indeed, there is actually recent research on this very subject:

Economists at the University of Adelaide, for instance, recently examined the impact that food prices have on civil conflict in 120 countries in the past 40 years. “Our main finding is that in low-income countries increases in the international food prices lead to a significant deterioration of democratic institutions and a significant increase in the incidence of anti-government demonstrations, riots, and civil conflict,” the researchers note. The same finding does not hold true in high-income countries, where citizens can better afford food.

That’s from a long analysis in Slate on how higher food prices are helping to fuel unrest in Egypt, “Protesting on an Empty Stomach,” which explains:

The price of oils, sugar, and cereals have all recently hit new peaks””and those latter prices are especially troubling for Egypt, as the world’s biggest importer of wheat.

Egyptians are particularly vulnerable to increases in food prices because they spend an unusually high proportion of their income on food, according to a recent Credit Suisse survey. “Food inflation is a specific issue” in the country, the report notes, “having reached over 20 percent””amongst the highest rates globally.” Egyptians spent more on food than respondents in any other emerging economy surveyed in the report””about 40 percent of their monthly income, versus about 17 percent for Brazilians and about 20 percent for Chinese and Saudi Arabians, for instance.

The Egyptian government does subsidize bread and other staples for poorer Egyptians, ameliorating the price increase somewhat. But most Egyptians purchase bread beyond what the subsidy allows. And the threat of instability has already pushed food costs higher in the Egyptian capital and elsewhere. Plus, rising food prices have a long history of causing social unrest in the country. In 1977, the state cut subsidies of basic staples, leading to deadly riots. In 2008, when food prices hit their first peak, Egyptians again took to the streets.

Now the question remains, why did food prices run up this time?  Here again, there just doesn’t seem to be much dispute about the major contributing factors, starting with extreme weather.  Last month, Scientific American reported, “world food prices hit a record high in December thanks to crop failures from a series of extreme weather events around the world“:

FAO attributes the upswing in prices to factors including the crop failures caused by a string of extreme weather events and high crop demands from an ever-increased global population….

Wheat, for example, bludgeoned by Russia’s wildfires, the heat waves in Australia and flooding in Pakistan, saw massive price surges last fall.

In its Tunisia piece the Washington Post noted:

The price of grains began to rise last fall after fires in Russia wiped out hundreds of thousands of acres of grains and heavy rain destroyed much of Canada’s wheat crop. The problems were followed by hot, dry weather in Argentina that devastated the soybean crop of the key exporter. This month, floods in Australia destroyed much of the country’s wheat crop.

The NYT itself explained last year, “wheat prices have “increased about 90 percent since June because of the drought in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and parts of the European Union, and floods in Canada.”

If there is any one out there who seriously disputes that extreme weather events were a major contributor to the run-up in food prices, please raise your hand so we can ignore your all of your analyses in the future.

The only serious debate is over the question of whether global warming played a role in the extreme events, particularly the Russian heat-wave/drought/fires and the floods elsewhere.

Scientific American notes that “Many experts have linked the series of floods and fires with climate change.”  ABC news talked to 10 scientists for its stories on the subject, which concluded “Raging Waters In Australia and Brazil Product of Global Warming” and that global warming is playing a role in the extreme winter weather.

Russia of course famously banned wheat exports through the 2011 growing season thanks to an event so extreme that even the formerly skeptic Russian leadership made the link to climate — see Russian President Medvedev: “What is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past.” More extreme heat waves are one of the most basic predictions of climate science.  Tamino calculated (at length) that global warming made the Moscow heat wave roughly eight times more likely:  “Without global warming, this once-in-a-century-or-two event would have been closer to a once-in-a-millenium event.”

The deluge/flooding link is equally strong.  Dr. Richard Somerville, a coordinating lead author on the IPCC’s 2007 review of climate science, explained to ABC bluntly:

This is no longer something that’s theory or conjecture or something that comes out of computer models. We’re observing the climate changing. It’s real. It’s happening. It’s scientific fact….

“Because the whole water cycle speeds up in a warming world, there’s more water in the atmosphere today than there was a few years ago on average, and you’re seeing a lot of that in the heavy rains and floods for example in Australia,” Sommervile said.

NOAA found that 2010 was both the hottest year on record and the wettest.

Derek Arndt, chief of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch in the National Climate Data Center, said 2010 was “an exclamation point on several decades of warming.”

He said NOAA is tracking disasters like the floods in Brazil and Australia. “We are measuring certain types of extreme events that we would expect to see more often in a warming world, and these are indeed increasing,” Arndt said.

In an Exclusive interview with ClimateProgress earlier this year, Kevin Trenberth, head of NCAR’s Climate Analysis Section, explained a key connection between human-caused global warming and superstorms:

“I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.”

Back in August, Trenberth told the NY Times, “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”  Trenberth explainedon NPR, that “some [weather events] we’ve had this year it’s clear- even though the research has not been done in detail yet -that the odds have changed, and we can probably say some of these would not have happened without global warming, without the human influence on climate.”

Meteorologist and former NOAA Hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground did an analysis of the big recent floods, which I reposted:

If we look at the departure of temperature from average for the moisture source regions of the globe’s four most extreme flooding disasters over the past 12 months, we find that these ocean temperatures ranked 2nd or 3rd warmest, going back through 111 years of history:

  • January 2011 Brazilian floods: 2nd warmest SSTs on record, +1.05°C (20S to 25S, 45W to 40W)
  • November 2010 Colombia floods: 3rd warmest SSTs on record, +0.65°C (10N to 0N, 80W to 75W)
  • December 2010 Australian floods: 3rd warmest SSTs on record, +1.05°C (10S to 25S, 145E to 155E)
  • July 2010 Pakistani floods: 2nd warmest SSTs on record, +0.95°C (Bay of Bengal, 10N to 20N, 80E to 95E)

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s “Annual Australian Climate Statement 2010,” explained, “very warm sea surface temperatures contributed to the record rainfall and very high humidity across eastern Australia during winter and spring. The most recent decade (2001ˆ’2010) was also the warmest decade on record for sea surface temperatures following the pattern observed over land.”

Masters himself told me:

In my thirty years as a meteorologist, I’ve never seen global weather patterns as strange as those we had in 2010. The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability. Natural variability probably did play a significant role in the wild weather of 2010, and 2011 will likely not be nearly as extreme. However, I suspect that crazy weather years like 2010 will become the norm a decade from now, as the climate continues to adjust to the steady build-up of heat-trapping gases we are pumping into the air. Forty years from now, the crazy weather of 2010 will seem pretty tame. We’ve bequeathed to our children a future with a radically changed climate that will regularly bring unprecedented weather events-many of them extremely destructive-to every corner of the globe. This year’s wild ride was just the beginning.

The nation’s top climatologist, NASA’s James Hansen has also recently written on the subject:  Would recent extreme “events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?” The “appropriate answer” is “almost certainly not”:

“Given the association of extreme weather and climate events with rising global temperature, the expectation of new record high temperatures in 2012 also suggests that the frequency and magnitude of extreme events could reach a high level in 2012. Extreme events include not only high temperatures, but also indirect effects of a warming atmosphere including the impact of higher temperature on extreme rainfall and droughts. The greater water vapor content of a warmer atmosphere allows larger rainfall anomalies and provides the fuel for stronger storms driven by latent heat.”

Munich Re, one of the world’s leading reinsurers, issued a news release in late September, “large number of weather extremes as strong indication of climate change,” which noted:

Floods in central Europe, wildfires in Russia, widespread flooding in Pakistan. The number and scale of weather-related natural catastrophe losses in the first nine months of 2010 was exceptionally high”¦.  Munich Re emphasises the probability of a link between the increasing number of weather extremes and climate change….

Munich Re’s natural catastrophe database, the most comprehensive of its kind in the world, shows a marked increase in the number of weather-related events. For instance, globally there has been a more than threefold increase in loss-related floods since 1980 and more than double the number of windstorm natural catastrophes, with particularly heavy losses as a result of Atlantic hurricanes.

The rise in natural catastrophe losses is primarily due to socio-economic factors. In many countries, populations are rising, and more and more people moving into exposed areas. At the same time, greater prosperity is leading to higher property values. Nevertheless, it would seem that the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change. The view that weather extremes are more frequent and intense due to global warming coincides with the current state of scientific knowledge as set out in the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report.

I fully understand why the anti-science crowd wants to shout down any discussion of the link between climate change and extreme weather, but it is baffling that people who were once full-time professional journalists want to dismiss any discussion of what may be the single most widespread impact of climate change on most of humanity, with dismissive tweets like “Everyone is finding his/her agenda reflected in Egypt uprising – even climate change” and opinion posts saying:

In the environmental community, some have tried to finger high food prices, and even “” as a contributor to food costs “” global warming.

“The environmental community”?  How about “the international community” and “major media outlets” and “leading food organizations”?  And it isn’t that they “tried to finger high food prices.”  It is widely understood that high food prices contribute to unrest generally — and in the MidEast right now specifically.  And again, extreme weather clearly helped drive up the food prices.

One can try to make the case that extreme weather was just coincidental to record warming — but then one would have try to make the case, rather than simply dismiss it, when many of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject, quoted above, have explained the link clearly.

One last point.  The argument that climate change contributed to high food prices now doesn’t mean that every single run up in the past must have been caused by climate change.   But Miles Grant notes in a post today, “Yes, Global Warming Has Helped Trigger Past African Unrest” that Wikipedia explains:

In 2005, a series of climate modeling studies performed at NOAA / Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory indicated that the late 20th century Sahel drought was likely a climatic response to changing sea surface temperature patterns, and that it could be viewed as a combination of natural variability superimposed upon an anthropogenically forced regional drying trend.Using GFDL CM2.X, these climate model simulations indicated that the general late 20th century Sahel drying trend was attributable to human-induced factors; largely due to an increase in greenhouse gases and partly due to an increase in atmospheric aerosols. In IPCC future scenario A2 (CO2 value of ‰ˆ860 ppm) Sahel rainfall could be reduced by up to 25% by year 2100, according to climate models.

In any case, major historical events have multiple causes.  Some are underlying causes, and some are precipitating or triggering causes.  Those who believe they understand the underlying causes are only revealing their ignorance if they shout down or dismiss those who are trying to explore some of the precipitating or triggering causes.

The fact is we are on track to warm more than 5 times as much this century as last.  So whatever we’re seeing now is going to get much, much worse — and be happening in the world with another 2 billion or more people.  We need to have a discussion of what human emissions are doing now and what they are likely to do in the future on our current path of unrestricted emissions.  It’s the only way we can make rational decisions about mitigation policies — while preparing for the ‘adaptation’ and misery we are imposing on our children and grandchildren if we fail to act swiftly (see Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery).

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37 Responses to High food prices are contributing to MidEast unrest

  1. Bob Lang says:

    How long before we see riots in countries with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, such as Pakistan.

  2. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’m surprised that you have such a high opinion of journalists. My father and sister were journalists, I knew many over the years, and those I see working in the media today are definitely not the pick of the crop. My father worked in the Murdoch apparatus for years, and he was dismayed by the fall in quality of new cadets. In fact the idea of a cadet died out, and journalists increasingly became graduates and graduates with acceptable, ie Rightwing, ideological opinions. Naturally this upset my father who was a type of anarchist once common amongst journalists. These days when I listen to the ABC radio or TV, or read any local newspaper, I know that I will see Rightwing ideology. There are a few superannuated exceptions at Fairfax, but the Murdoch media is an ideological monoculture. Amongst these people, the idea of questioning the global US Empire, questioning the perfection of market capitalism, questioning the supremacy of ‘Western Civilization’ or questioning the theology that anthropogenic climate change is a conspiracy by ex-Communists to destroy capitalism and force us back to the Stone Age, is unknown. From what I see of the UK, the situation there is identical.
    We must face facts. The MSM is a dead loss. It no longer operates in any meaningful manner as a source of disinterested information and a forum for debate. It has devolved, as it has been concentrated in ownership amongst a handful of mega-corporations, into a straight propaganda system pushing the ideology of its billionaire owners. Tweeting refutations of climate change or its influence on food production not only reflects the mentality of MSM journalists, but gets them approving attention from the editorial offices.

  3. Lou Grinzo says:

    How long before we start asking openly about the ethics of the US turning 34% (yes, 34%) of its corn crop into ethanol?

    [JR: I've been asking it for a while now: "Can words describe how bad corn ethanol is?"]

  4. dp says:

    it’s real

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Deep drumbeats of doom…

  6. Matto says:

    I second Lou Grinzo’s comment.

  7. Jay says:

    Joe,

    What’s the null hypothesis?

    [JR: Planet doesn't get warmer, sea levels don't keep rising, there isn't more water vapor above the oceans, the weather doesn't get more extreme. But we're in "settled fact" territory on the warming front, according to the NAS.]

  8. David B. Benson says:

    Joe Romm — Other than the minor fact that Tunesia, Algeria & Morocco are in the Magreb, not the Middle East, this is one of your more powerful postings.

    Thank you.

    [JR: Thanks. “The Middle East (from a European perspective) is a region that encompasses Western Asia and North Africa.”

  9. Douglas says:

    In other news, PBS Newshour just had Bastardi on to tell us how all these strong winter storms are a return to what it was like in the 60s. Or something. And there was a nice, cuddly, warm-n-fuzzy Chevron ad to end the program.

  10. David B. Benson says:

    JR — From the Wikipedia page you link: In 1958, the State Department explained that the terms “Near East” and “Middle East” were interchangeable, and defined the region as including only Egypt, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. thus excluding the countries of the Magreb.

    And anyway, my prior comment is still stuck in moderation.

    [JR: The point is, my usage isn't uncommon, not that there is a definitive definition.]

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Except it isn’t, just the one above.

  12. Lore says:

    What we’re seeing is the tip of the melting iceberg. I believe current events raise the bar of certainty that global food security will be the first felt response to a rapidly changing climate and scarcity of energy.

    A good portion of the people on the planet are walking a fine line right now. What if we have another year of crop disasters due to poor weather conditions during this year’s coming growing season in the NH?

  13. Jay says:

    “[JR: Planet doesn't get warmer, sea levels don't keep rising, there isn't more water vapor above the oceans, the weather doesn't get more extreme. But we're in "settled fact" territory on the warming front, according to the NAS.]”

    I’m not going to take it too much further, and I certainly defer to your many more years of study on this than mine, and I do thank you for the response, but I don’t think many people consider *that* the null hypothesis.

  14. K Nockels says:

    Take it from a small organic farmer “WE ANT SEEN NOTHING YET” With the increase in mono culture crops grown on large industrial scale farms using oil as an ever larger percentage of production around the world and the small farmers being driven out of the markets by them we are losing the biodeversity we will need to cope with weather extremes in supplying food at a price anyone can afford. Between drought and flood and sea level rise food production will fall off a cliff and the one thing we all of us have in common as people is we have to eat to live.

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    Another country …

    Yemen president says won’t extend presidential term

    Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key U.S. ally against al Qaeda, said on Wednesday he will not seek to extend his presidency in a move that would end his three-decade rule when his current term expires in 2013.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/02/us-yemen-president-idUSTRE7111WC20110202

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Bob Lang said “How long before we see riots in countries with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, such as Pakistan.”

    Riots are one thing, but on current path we will see those riots end in anarchic scenarios, when civilization will collapse and not get back on it’S feet. Under these scenarios which are highly possible, what will possible happen with nuclear devices?

    Once example is that foreign agents get hold on these weapons by any means to stock up their arsenal, countries like iran for example. Even if pakistan can stay strong the issue about water with iran will likely escalate further … So what happens if we have nuclear devices explode. How will the fallout affect “us”? And how will a nuclear warfare affect climate change?

    War or not, food and water scarcity will drive migration of masses – millions of millions of climate refugees. Israel will literally be overrun.

    The solution is to have a situation where people have save food and water supply. And here again we have a win win situation when adopting BIOCHAR – BECCS throughout the planet. Because only biochar has the biggest potential to help sustain soils, drought resistance, best fertilizer etc. and at the same time help curbing global emissions.
    With biochar desert soils can even be re-vitalized and help against further desertification and loose of agriable lands.

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    Yemen, already teetering on the brink of becoming a failed state, is trying to fight a resurgent al Qaeda arm, cement peace with Shi’ite rebels in the north and quell separatism in the south, all in the face of crushing poverty that has left a third of Yemenis suffering from chronic hunger. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/02/us-yemen-president-idUSTRE7111WC20110202

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    i meant to write issue about water with INDIA …

  19. J Bowers says:

    The Oil Drum: What’s Behind Egypt’s Problems?

    With oil prices higher now (because world production is close to flat, and as countries come out of recession, they want more), food prices of all types are higher as well. Oil is used directly in the production of grain and indirectly in storage and transit, so its cost becomes important.
    [...]

    Why does everyone else respond so strongly to Egypt’s problems?

    One reason is that other Arab countries are also feeling some of the same pressures. Food prices are rising everywhere. Many low income people spend in excess of 50% of their income for food, so a rise in food costs becomes a real issue. People have come to depend on oil and food subsidies. If they are taken away, or not raised sufficiently to compensate for the higher costs of imports, it is a real problem.

  20. John Mason says:

    JB #14 – was going to link to that Oildrum piece myself. Some interesting graphs within – recommended. The combination of major crop-damage all over the place and escalating oil prices, plus Egypt’s own situation WRT the ability to export oil, places it in a particularly vulnerable position. Those who bang on about the cost to the economy of tackling climate destabilisation may at this point want to pause to consider the duel costs of a) squandering our natural resources so recklessly and b) wrecking our stable climate along the way. Orders of magnitude is the sort of area we are getting into here.

    Cheers – John

  21. J Bowers says:

    Re. John Mason 15

    There’s a link to the Boston Globe in comments (Merrill) below the Oil Drum piece, with a line that I think deserves some attention: http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2010/08/17/russias_grain_ban_showcases_egypts_love_of_bread/

    Even the language here conveys how essential bread is. Egyptians alone in the Arab world call it “aish,” Arabic for “life.” It’s one of the few affordable staples in the country — costing the equivalent of $0.01 per round loaf.

    It doesn’t take much to light the fire.

  22. Heraclitus says:

    Here’s another one from Scientific American:
    Are high food prices fueling revolution in Egypt?
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=are-high-food-prices-fueling-revolu-2011-02-01
    “Obviously, the current revolution in Egypt did not have one cause, but there is no doubt that rising food prices added fuel to an already combustible mix.”

  23. william green says:

    Joe: Do you/CP have a view on the role that existing and future biofuels mandates in the U.S and Europe may be having on food markers? Don’t biofuels compete with food crops?

    Thx

  24. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe wrote: “… major historical events have multiple causes. Some are underlying causes, and some are precipitating or triggering causes.”

    By the way, that’s a pretty close to perfect answer to the often-asked question as to whether a particular extreme weather event is “caused by” global warming. All weather events, extreme or otherwise, arise from multiple causes and conditions — and global warming is now one of the conditions (or “underlying causes”) that gives rise to ALL weather events.

  25. Adam R. says:

    Powerful stuff, Joe.

    The response of luke-warmers like Kloor to your Sunday piece exposes them for what they are, deniers at heart. They simply cannot bring themselves to face the fact that we don’t just have a remote warming problem: we have a developing climate crisis on our hands.

  26. Nick says:

    In the U. of Adelaide paper (Arezki & Brückner) cited in the post, they use “data from Banks (2010) on the number of riots and anti-government demonstrations.” Banks (2010) isn’t listed in their references. Anyone know which database they’re referring to?

  27. Prokaryotes says:

    I think you should bold this part “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount”

  28. Prokaryotes says:

    Psychological influences
    Climate Change and Mental Health: Evidence for Action

    Psychologists for Social Responsibility
    Climate Change, Sustainability, and Psychology Program

    HEAT
    • Higher temperatures are associated with increased rates of assault, rape,
    robbery, burglary, and larceny but not murder, and this might be the result
    of more people being outside interacting in the community when the
    temperatures are higher. Murder tends to occur more inside homes.

    •Violent crime may be exacerbated during heat waves because more stress
    hormones are released when people are exposed to excessive heat.

    •More alcohol and drugs may be consumed during heat waves, and more
    people may seek help for their psychiatric problems during these periods.

    •Work performance declines as temperatures rise, so climate change is
    likely to reduce the world’s economic output.

    •Apart from heat, such behavioral and situational factors as poverty and
    isolation contribute to more deaths during heat waves.

    WATER
    • Drought appears to contribute to a variety of mental health effects,
    including more stress, grief, and hopelessness as well a sense of
    solastalgia, which describes a palpable sense of dislocation and loss
    people feel when they perceive changes to their local environment are
    pervasively harmful.

    •Higher rates of anxiety and emotional distress may be one result of
    experiencing drought.

    •Drought appears to create increased anxiety and stress among farmers,
    problems in their family relationships, and risks for suicide.

    FOOD
    • Climate change will affect food supplies around the world, and research
    indicates inadequate nutrition is associated with more developmental and
    behavioral problems in children as well as lower IQs.

    •Inadequate access to food resources also increases the risk for serious
    psychological and coping problems.

    •Climate change will exacerbate one of the primary reasons for malnutrition,
    namely socioeconomic disadvantage.

    •Food insecurity—the lack of access to sufficient food for good health and
    mental functioning—and water shortages may be traumatizing to people,
    resulting in more anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and depression as well as
    more violence toward women.

    AIR
    •More air pollution is a hallmark of climate change’s higher temperatures,
    and people perceive themselves to be less well when exposed to more air
    pollution.

    •Air pollution both causes and exacerbates asthma, and children who
    experience asthma (34 million Americans have asthma, and the rates are
    increasing) are at least two times more likely to have anxiety symptoms,
    almost twice as likely to be depressed, and report my general
    psychological distress.

    •Higher levels of ozone, and air pollutant that will become more prevalent
    with climate change, are associated with increased rates of family violence.

    •People who perceive their air quality to be worse feel more depressed.

    •People experience more anxiety and tension when they live near industrial
    air pollutants, which will be exacerbated in climate change’s warmer
    temperatures.

    •Air pollution from traffic, a major contributor to climate change and
    something climate change will make worse, may deepen or contribute to
    higher rates of schizophrenia.

    CATACLYSMIC EVENTS
    •Conflict among people may be one of the hallmarks of climate change’s
    severe weather, which can displace thousands or millions and lead to
    those people competing with others for scarce resources.

    •While many people have short-term reactions to extreme natural
    disasters—including grief, anger, anxiety, and depression—persistent
    post-traumatic stress may be the hallmark of climate change, as was
    demonstrated after Hurricane Katrina.

    •One study showed that mental illness doubled after Hurricane Katrina.

    •One year after Hurricane Katrina, exposed children were four times more
    likely than before the storm to be depressed or anxious and twice as likely
    to have behavioral problems.

    •Other psychological problems, including family dysfunction, difficulties at
    work, increased child misbehavior, a sense of lost identity, and more may
    result from experiences of the extreme disasters that climate change is
    likely to bring.

    •Climate change will bring more droughts, fires, and other natural disasters
    to some regions, and these will more significantly harm the psychological
    well-being of citizens thereby requiring better preparedness to deter the
    worst outcomes.

    •Climatic variability also will be common with climate change, and the
    unpredictability of storms, floods, droughts, and other extreme events will
    tax many people’s ability to cope.

    •Emotional distress and anxiety will be among the hallmarks of climate
    change and its effects, and disadvantaged communities are among those
    to be most harmed.

    INFECTIOUS DISEASE
    • While currently there is but conjecture that more infectious diseases will be
    a likely outcome of climate change, research on the SARS epidemic found
    people responded with enormous anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and
    depression.

    •Children can experience intense, delayed anxiety in response to outbreaks
    of infectious disease, especially when they’re anxious to begin with.

    •Many infectious diseases themselves can cause psychological
    symptoms—some lasting—including harming children’s thinking and
    lucidity, academic performance, attention and memory, and speech-
    language skills.

    •Nongovernmental organizations that intervene after disease epidemics and
    other natural disasters don’t often launch what could be helpful mental
    health programs in response.
    http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:1TAv-6N3RAMJ:www.psysr.org/about/programs/climate/PSYSR_Climate_Change_and_Mental_Health–References_for_Action.pdf+climate+change+psychological+effects+violence&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESho77tCehTkrSZSTkGZ7q1kA4lZ5hcL9FHKGCxAJw_rg4KTMXbICk_OEOXDTOVmzglC3mSoCDDRhyNobY-A4TtTMR2Yfslb3fzX1hNeff7jefl7d8qW4ZBu1sHW2696qEaEA_eq&sig=AHIEtbTagVMfPWPlvTaflfRXyAjpvzuhiw

  29. Prokaryotes says:

    To bad the people are badly organized … doesn’t look like that Mubarak will leave soon.
    Civil War conditions on the Streets now …

    Raw Video: Shots Heard, Firebombs Seen in Cairo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5tmzRI0HM4&feature=channel

    When we attribute climate change partial to weather phenomena, we have to attribute actions of people partly to climate change as well. The actions of the people are influenced by climate change. And this will gain more weight over time. Especially people are vulnerable, which are already weak. That leads to some pretty scary thoughts. If we talk of tipping points, it might appear that humans are not even able to cope with the changes which are ahead. Problems will overwhelm the human.

    The window to change the outcome of the initiated climate change is closing fast.

  30. Aaron Lewis says:

    Lets hope that Oklahoma got enough snow to protect the drought stressed wheat seedlings in the ground from the current freeze. If they did not get enough snow, the little seedlings in the ground will freeze and die, and the wheat crop for the year will be lost. The problem is that with industrial monoculture, if one farm field frosts, then most of the fields will frost, and we will lose most of the southern plains wheat crop.

    This may not happen this year, but with the loss of the polar vortex following the 2007 Arctic Ice melt, we have a new climate and our industrial agriculture is not ready. The US wheat crop may not fail in THIS year, but we are on a path where it will fail within the next few years as the weather gets more extreme. On the current path, the only thing that would prevent such crop failure is a refreeze of the Arctic Sea Ice and a return of the NH polar vortex. That is not going to happen in our life time.

    We need to plan out agriculture for a climate that does not include the NH polar vortex. We need to plan out social structures to deal with more intense weather, including storms that simply wipe out crops across broad swaths of the country.

    All of this is going to keep getting a lot worse until we put a good tight lid on CO2 emissions. Write your congressman.

  31. PSU Grad says:

    Just to add to the food items being affected, we have this recent development:

    SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Raw-sugar futures rose to a 30-year high on Wednesday as traders worried about the impact of a powerful cyclone stomping through Australia, the world’s third largest raw-sugar exporter and eighth largest producer.

  32. Prokaryotes says:

    ABC reported 40% loose. ABC also have it’s own in House “Expert” Professor Jonathan Nott from James Cook University telling on Air that we can not say if the Cyclone is affected from climate change. His hypothesis is to wait a few more years to make a judgement …

  33. DMC says:

    Another example of the effect of global climate change. We are going to have to come up with new ways of growing consistent amounts of food no matter what the weather. It real and people need to act.

  34. Colorado Bob says:

    It’s not just food -
    Australian cyclone pushes copper prices to new high

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/feb/02/australian-cyclone-copper-prices

  35. David B. Benson says:

    Michael Tobis wrote Joe Romm’s follow-up is compelling.

    I agree.

  36. Sou says:

    World food prices hit record consecutive highs seven months in a row incl Jan 2011

    World food prices have hit a record high in January after rising for a seventh consecutive month, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said, warning the poor would be hit hardest.

    The FAO Food Price Index, which monitors monthly price changes for a basket of commodities, averaged 231 points in January – up 3.4 per cent from December and its highest level since FAO started measuring food prices in 1990.

    “The new figures clearly show the upward pressure on world food prices is not abating. These high prices are likely to persist in the months to come,” FAO economist and grains expert Abdolreza Abbassian said.

    The rises were particularly high for dairy products – up 6.2 per cent – and oils and fats rose 5.6 per cent from the previous month, while cereals went up 3 per cent because of lower global supply of wheat and maize.

    Meat prices remained broadly stable due to a fall in prices in Europe caused by last month’s scare over dioxin poisoning in eggs and pork in Germany, compensated by a slight increase in export prices from Brazil and the US.

    “High food prices are of major concern especially for low-income food deficit countries that may face problems in financing food imports and for poor households which spend a large share of their income on food,” Mr Abbassian said.

    “The only encouraging factor so far stems from a number of countries where – due to good harvests – domestic prices of some of the food staples remain low compared to world prices.”

    FAO data released on Thursday showed the Food Price Index hit 200 points in 2008 at the height of the 2007-08 food crisis. It breached that level for the first time in October 2010 with 205 points and has risen further since then.

    - AFP

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/02/04/3129557.htm?section=justin

  37. Paulm says:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12354402

    “These high prices are likely to persist in the months to come,” FAO economist Abdolreza Abbassian said.