The Collaborative Institute

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Putting Climate Change in the Center


Recently, we’ve been hearing more about how recent extreme weather can contribute to a global food crisis. While it’s difficult to attribute any one major weather event to climate change, Paul Krugman reminds us that it’s necessary to examine the overall pattern.

“As always, you can’t attribute any one weather event to greenhouse gases. But the pattern we’re seeing, with extreme highs and extreme weather in general becoming much more common, is just what you’d expect from climate change.”

Essentially, extreme weather is contributing to major food shortages as crops are destroyed. Water scarcity, along with growing populations, climate change, soil erosion and other factors, place an enormous amount of pressure on production. As the supply dwindles, demand is staying the same or increasing, leading to higher prices around the globe.

Now, we’re seeing links between rising food prices and food shortages, and political instability. Rising food prices are believed to be at least a partial trigger for the recent unrest in Tunisia and Egypt. As countries experience extreme weather, they’ll be more likely to decrease or halt export of vital staple items in order to take care of their own first. Just last summer, Russia stopped wheat exports as fires ravaged the country. These extreme weather events will not always stop short of completely decimating a country or its crops. What happens when extreme weather events prevent countries from providing for its citizens? Will people start leaving their home countries to fulfill basic needs, in search of a safe haven from the destruction? Experts say it’s possible.

“Forecasts of global migration related to environmental factors range from 150 million to 300 million people by the middle of this century, the Asian Development Bank said Monday, and the Asia-Pacific region is expected to be at the epicenter of this trend.”

At the center of these debates about human security, food shortage and political instability lies an important factor: climate change. As the earth continues to change, we’ll see increasing instances of extreme weather events, leading to more destruction and greater instability.

Author: The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)

The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security is distinguished by its focus on the intersections of oceans, climate and security, and emerging associated policy and management implications. Founded at UMass Boston in January 2010, the Collaborative Institute exists to develop and communicate high-value intellectual, policy, and technical expertise to help stabilize the health of our atmosphere, coastal communities and marine ecosystems, and human/national security for all. It seeks on a global scale to create new strategic opportunities to bring innovation to science, policy and communications. Visionary, as well as opportunistic and flexible, the Collaborative Institute uses multi-sector engagement as a cornerstone of its work and uses public/private revenue to sustain its mission.

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