Oxfam Warns Climate Change And Extreme Weather Will Cause Food Prices To Soar

A report from Oxfam warns that global warming and extreme weather will combine to create devastating food price shocks in the coming decades.

Oxfam had previously warned that corn or maize would see a 177% rise in price by 2030 due to climate change and other factors (see Oxfam: Extreme Weather Has Helped Push Tens of Millions into “Hunger and Poverty” in “Grim Foretaste” of Warmed World).

Further modeling the impact of warming-driven extreme weather shocks leads Oxfam to conclude corn prices could increase a staggering 500% by 2030.

Note: The “additional price increase” percentage is calculated off the original price increase.

As Oxfam explains in its news release:

Food price spikes will get worse as extreme weather caused by climate change devastates food production

New research shows that the full impact of climate change on future food prices is being underestimated, according to international agency Oxfam.

Oxfam’s new report, Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices, highlights for the first time how extreme weather events such as droughts and floods could drive up future food prices. Previous research only tends to consider gradual impacts, such as increasing temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.

Oxfam’s findings should come as no surprise to anyone following recent headlines. Here’s an August 30th story from the World Bank:

Severe Droughts Drive Food Prices Higher, Threatening the Poor

Global food prices soared by 10 percent in July from a month ago, with maize and soybean reaching all-time peaks due to an unprecedented summer of droughts and high temperatures in both the United States and Eastern Europe, according to the World Bank Group’s latest Food Price Watch report.

And here’s one from the UK Guardian from September 2nd:

The era of cheap food may be over

A spike in prices caused by poor harvests and rising demand is an apt moment for the west to reassess the wisdom of biofuels

Duh? See CP’s 2011 posts, “The Corn Ultimatum: How long can Americans keep burning one sixth the world’s corn supply in our cars?” and “Biofuels May Push 120 Million Into Hunger, Qatar’s Shah Says.”

Last December I wrote that the Climate Story of the Year was “Warming-Driven Drought and Extreme Weather Emerge as Key Threat to Global Food Security.” This may well be the climate story of the decade — though the world’s inaction on carbon pollution, the media’s silence on climate change, the GOP’s descent into hard-core denial, and the Arctic Death Spiral will all be battling for that title.

Here’s more from the Oxfam news release on this most important of stories:

The research also finds:

  • Even under a conservative scenario, another US drought in 2030 could raise the price of maize by as much as 140 per cent over and above the average price of food in 2030, which is already likely to be double today’s prices.
  • Drought and flooding in southern Africa could increase the consumer price of maize and other coarse grains by as much as 120 per cent. Price spikes of this magnitude today would mean the cost of a 25kg bag of corn meal – a staple which feeds poor families across Africa for about two weeks – would rocket from around $18 to $40.
  • A nationwide drought in India and extensive flooding across South East Asia could see the world market price of rice increase by 25 per cent. This could see domestic spikes of up to 43 per cent on top of longer term price rises in rice importing countries of such as Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

A massive blow to the world’s poorest

Oxfam’s Climate Change Policy Adviser Tim Gore said such price spikes would be a massive blow to the world’s poorest who today spend up to 75 per cent of their income on food.

“Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns hold back crop production and cause steady price rises. But extreme weather events – like the current US drought – can wipe out entire harvests and trigger dramatic food price spikes.

“We will all feel the impact as prices spike but the poorest people will be hit hardest.

“The huge potential impact of extreme weather events on future food prices is missing from today’s climate change debate. The world needs to wake up to the drastic consequences facing our food system of climate inaction,” Gore said….

“As emissions continue to soar, extreme weather in the US and elsewhere provides a glimpse of our future food system in a warming world. Our planet is heading for average global warming of 2.5–5°C this century. It is time to face up to what this means for hunger and malnutrition for millions of people on our planet,” Gore said.

“Our governments ‘stress-tested’ the banks after the financial crisis. We now need to stress test the global food system under climate change to identify where we are most vulnerable. Governments must also act now to slash rising greenhouse gas emissions, reverse decades of under-investment in small scale agriculture in poor countries, and provide the additional money needed to help poor farmers adapt to a changing climate.”

Hear! Hear!

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21 Responses to Oxfam Warns Climate Change And Extreme Weather Will Cause Food Prices To Soar

  1. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Given the current rate of change, why are they looking at 2030? We have to get through 2020 first, ME

  2. Peter Mizla says:

    Prices are rising quickly. or those contemplating retirement in the next 5 years or so- with a modest income- it could prove to be a difficult struggle.

  3. Lore says:

    I think another thing to consider, long before 2030, is that we will soon be seeing the disappearance of many types of food available.

    Some of it, like certain fish stocks, a major protein source for a substantial amount of the planet’s population may very well be exhausted and unavailable at any price.

    Living in a world where your single meal a day consists of very expensive potato gruel, by 2030, doesn’t sound all that appealing.

  4. Mark E says:

    Then there’s the problem of shifting baselines… in 2030, the vast majority of earth’s human population will have zero concept of what I think of as “normal”.

  5. paul magnus says:

    I wish people would concentrate on the next 0.8C increase rather than, say 2C plus. We have to start to cope with the next .8C first.

    We have only warmed .8C and things are pretty much toast.

    We really need to start focusing on survival issues now. That of course includes GHG mitigation.

    Mother nature is effectively going to start reducing GHG emissions herself. We are going to have to concentrate on surviving.

  6. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I’m pretty sure you mean by reducing the people plague but I keep wondering whether because this planet seems geared for life, she will evolve some rapidly reproducing life form that gobbles CO2 out of the air or the oceans,- just a hope, ME

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Without the ‘global dimming’ brought on by Chinese and Indian emissions of particulates and sulphates etc, we’d be at 2 degrees Celsius already, more or less.

  8. BillD says:

    I wonder how population size fits into their model. Before we see a doubling of grains we might see a population decline, at least in poor countries in Africa. Growing weatlth in China and India is really going to put a squeeze on food prices.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The rise in food commodity prices is a ‘win-win’ for the global parasite caste. First they make lottsa money from speculating in commodities, using the trillions in free money that their political stooges have granted them over recent years. The control of global food supply chains by a handful of multinationals also delivers megabucks. And with a billion or so already chronically under-nourished, hunger and outright starvation are going to rapidly increase, a neat, Malthusian, indeed a ‘market’ solution, to the problem represented by billions of ‘useless eaters’ for whom our Masters have no use.

  10. Paul Klinkman says:

    Because we’re subsidizing corn, we’re using it as fuel. It’s mainly burned as ethanol in cars, but sometimes it’s put into home furnaces these days. We used to be horrified that most of our grains were going to cattle, pigs and chickens, not to people.

  11. SecularAnimist says:

    Paul Klinkman wrote: “We used to be horrified that most of our grains were going to cattle, pigs and chickens, not to people.”

    “Used to be” horrified?

    Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the USA are still going to cattle, pigs and chickens to mass-produce cheap factory-farmed meat — with a resulting loss of up to 90 percent of the original protein content, and of course the resulting epidemics of entirely preventable degenerative disease and massive air and water pollution.

    All of which is spreading throughout the developing world where US-style industrial meat production is being rapidly and widely adopted.

    It’s still a much worse problem than the use of corn for ethanol.

  12. Joan Savage says:

    The world’s poor are vulnerable to both ends of climate change whipsaw of commodity food pricing, as the poor are both part of the primary producers and the buyers.

    That’s not so evident within the U.S., Canada and the E.U. that have turned to mechanized agriculture, but elsewhere commodities like palm oil, peanuts, rice, coffee, tea, and chocolate still use cheap labor. I doubt if their earnings will rise proportionately with scarcity.

  13. Stephanie L says:

    They’re already speculating on food. And they don’t give a crap how many people starve or roast to death in the hell they are creating for us. Wonder when the world will realize there are about 5,000 of them, and billions of us? The future doesn’t look too pretty for the rich either: makes the Storming of the Bastile look like a kindergarten fire drill. Either way folks, try to strengthen your assets and plan for your family’s survival. The rich are likely planning that we common folk will simply eat EACH OTHER, ending their problems once and for all.

  14. There are six factors pushing food prices higher long term:

    1. Global Warming
    2. Extreme weather
    3. Population growth of 80 million per year
    4. Increased meat consumption worldwide.
    5. Loss of arable land and deforestation.
    6. Agricultural dependence on an increasingly costly set of fuels and chemicals (fossil fuel based).

  15. Once the ice cap goes, and the jet stream is untethered from its traditional channel, seasonal rain will no longer fall where it should, when it should, in amounts it should to sustain agriculture.

    The ice cap reached a record low this month, and is disappearing far faster than almost anyone predicted. Credible estimates now range from three to eighteen years before the Arctic is ice-free.

    The first-order result will be as described above: shortages and famine.

    The second-order result will be economic chaos, as international trade breaks down because (1) the food-exporting countries can’t; (2) a greater percentage of people’s paychecks go to food, thereby making less money available for other aspects of the economy; (3) governments are preoccupied with domestic food security; and (4) weakened and sick people work less, are less productive, and divert otherwise economically contributory family members to at-home care-giving. There is a strong dynamic correlation between healthy people and a healthy economy. To wit, Somalia.

    Then we get the third-order result: social breakdown.

    This leads to the fourth-order result: authoritarian government and the death of democracy.

  16. Joan Savage says:

    Calcifying cyanobacteria and thermophilic cyanobacteria have been studied with that role in mind.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The billionaire parasites, about one thousand in number, control more wealth than the bottom three billion people. Any system that creates such injustice and inequality, and the misery and suffering that flows from it, is Satanically evil. The parasites’ propaganda stooges don’t see it like that, of course, and in the Rightwing MSM in this benighted country we are currently being deluged by propaganda singing the ‘virtues’ of inequality and the praises of the(almost uniformly) hyper-obese, capitalist ‘wealth-creators’.

  18. Mark Shapiro says:

    I hate when those things happen. . .

    . . . clean energy now!

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Sounds better than nothing – and spuds are easy to grow, ME

  20. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Good, thanks, ME

  21. Merrelyn Emery says:

    (1) is already evident, e.g. Russia, ME