Climate Change and Food Availability
CNN recently carried an interesting story on the impact of “severe weather” on the global food supply. The editor’s note to the story observed that,
Extreme weather across the world in 2012 has led to low food yields and a hike in prices. Climate is not the only driver of high food costs, but recent price spikes have caused hardship across the world.
An Oxfam issue briefing reached a similar conclusion, noting that climate change is facilitating more extreme weather events, including droughts, floods, and heat waves, driving food prices higher.
But it’s not just higher prices that are the problem. We are also witnessing sharp increases in food price volatility. Over the past four years, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index has seen wide swings. The 2008 global food crisis saw commodity prices rocket up, only to be followed by a sharp decline in prices in the 2010 global recession. Today, food prices are once again approaching 2008’s record highs, as the FAO’s index illustrates.
This graph alone should raise questions about our understanding of the global food crisis. While climatic events are certainly increasing in scope and scale, they alone do not help us make sense of the dramatic increase in food price volatility. That is likely due to other factors, most notably the sharp increase in food commodity speculation.