Feb 8, 2011
For the second time in eight days, a prominent liberal has blamed the developing crisis in Egypt on global warming.
We’re in the midst of a global food crisis — the second in three years. World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. These soaring prices have had only a modest effect on U.S. inflation, which is still low by historical standards, but they’re having a brutal impact on the world’s poor, who spend much if not most of their income on basic foodstuffs.
The consequences of this food crisis go far beyond economics. After all, the big question about uprisings against corrupt and oppressive regimes in the Middle East isn’t so much why they’re happening as why they’re happening now. […]
While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning.
Have food prices really soared?
As Roger Pielke Jr. noted Monday:
The figure at the top of this post is from a paper by Daniel Sumner, of the University of California-Davis (here in PDF), in which he seeks to place the 2006-2008 increase in grain prices into historical context. Current grain prices are at a similar level to the peak in 2007. Sumner’s paper also has a figure going back to the mid-1800s. Good luck disentangling a long-term climate signal in the long-term data, which shows a significant decline in grain prices, much less attributing such a signal to a particular cause. Efforts to link short-term wiggles to the effects of greenhouse gas emissions go well beyond the canons of empirical science, to use a polite euphemism from The Climate Fix.
As you can see, although grains prices have been spiking of late, adjusted for inflation, they are well below where they were in the ’70s as well as several decades prior.
This article was posted: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 5:30 am