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.”
- My Nature Piece On Dust-Bowlification And the Grave Threat It Poses to Food Security: “Feeding some 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of a rapidly worsening climate may well be the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced.”