The effects of global warming and climate change created by greenhouse gases could be far worse than we thought. A growing consensus of scientists thinks that climate change will lead to catastrophic food shortages.
Satellite monitoring shows that the number of places in the world where it is too hot to grow food is growing at an alarming rate, NASA’s chief scientist, Ellen Stofan, told Business Insider. Stofan told an audience at the James Beard Foundation’s Food Conference that she thinks large swaths of the world, including Southeast Asia’s Mekong Delta (an important rice growing area) and Southern Africa, could soon be too hot to farm in.
“If we continue on our current course, it’s going to be hard to feed this planet because it’s so hot,” Stofan said.
Food Growing Regions Could Soon Turn to Deserts
The rate of photosynthesis, the process by which plants turn carbon dioxide into carbohydrates (food), declines rapidly at temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit, Stofan said. That, of course, is one reason why deserts like those in Death Valley and the Sahara are dead; plants cannot grow there. Now the number of places in the world where such temperatures are constant is growing fast.
If Stofan is right, many important crop growing regions could turn into deserts, a process that could dramatically reduce the world’s food supply and drive up food prices. Animation based on Stofan’s hypothesis shows that some important food growing regions, including the Great Plains of the United States, the world’s bread basket, are heating up dramatically.
This means that catastrophic droughts such as those in Syria and the Southwestern U.S. could be just the tip of the iceberg. That could lead to permanent food shortages, which is bad news for the poor and good news for farmers in areas that do not heat up. Crop prices could soon go through the roof.
Breakdown of World Food System Predicted
“The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots,” Aled Jones, the director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Britain’s Anglia Ruskin University, told Insurge Intelligence.
Jones’ organization predicts that food prices could be four times higher if present trends continue. He also thinks that food shortages and prices could have a catastrophic effect on civilization.
“In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption,” Jones said.
Sadly, history backs Jones’ thesis. Both the Russian and French Revolutions started because of food shortages. The recent Arab Spring, which helped cause the catastrophic Syrian and Libyan civil wars, was also sparked by high food prices that created civil unrest.
Could Commodities Investors Benefit?
This situation could make a lot of money for commodities investors and for those that buy farmland in regions that global warming might not affect, such as the northern Great Plains states of the United States and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan—not to mention the southern reaches of Argentina’s Patagonia.
These claims also seem to bear out. Investor Jim Rogers claim that food shortages could make agriculture far more valuable. Rogers predicted food shortages back in 2010 and also claimed that the food shortages would make farmland in Iowa far more valuable.
Rogers noted that the world’s inventories of food were already at incredibly low levels back in 2010. That situation could soon get far worse; the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is predicting that food supplies will start falling by around 2% a year starting this year, Business Insider reported, a process that could continue for the foreseeable future. That means the food supply could fall by 20% in 10 years.
If that prediction comes true, it means food prices would rise at around 2% a year, which could be good news for commodities investors and grain farmers but bad news for the poor. That definitely sounds like a recipe for civil and political unrest, even in some advanced countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, which are already plagued by growing income inequality.
It could also make next generation agricultural technologies such as hydroponics, in which crops are raised indoors in controlled environments, far more valuable. Also benefiting will be those investing in next generation technologies that do not produce greenhouse gases, such as fusion.
It looks as if global warming could be far worse than we thought. The Syrian Civil War and the refugee crisis it has spawned could be a preview of things to come if we do not get serious and make serious efforts to prevent climate change by reducing greenhouse gases now.