Via Reuters AlertNet: When national disasters go global. Click through for the ful report and many links. Excerpt:
As a result of the drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has adjusted its prediction for corn yields, the country’s largest export crop, down by 12 percent. This, and any subsequent adjustments, will likely impact global corn prices, but also meat and dairy prices, as corn is used for animal feed. Meanwhile, beef prices are still high from last year’s drought in Texas.
As a leading exporter of corn and soy, the U.S. is intricately linked to the global food market. Drought and crop failure in the U.S. could spike world food prices and have serious implications for places like Mexico, China, Central America and India, who rely heavily on imports of these crops, as well as animal feed.
But this is not the first time that droughts have caused a spike in world food prices. If this drought does lead to a price spike, it will be the fifth such spike in six years.
SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF PRICE SPIKES
What we’ve seen is that spikes in world food prices have increased the likelihood of instability and riots. In some instances, crop failure in one part of the world is associated with instability halfway around the globe, can contribute to serious diplomatic crises between the U.S. and its allies - as occurred with Egypt - and could conceivably result in U.S. military involvement.
This is part of a larger phenomenon Troy Sternberg calls “the globalisation of hazards,” where natural hazards in one region can have a significant impact on regions halfway across the globe.
This is not to say that the current U.S. drought will necessarily lead to unrest. However, it is not unprecedented for droughts, and other climatic events that damage crop production, to do so.
COLLECTIVE IMPACT OF CROP FAILURE
It is also important to consider that the drought and crop failures in the U.S. are not happening in isolation.
In recent years, extreme hot and dry weather has forced Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to reduce their harvest forecasts (and two studies explicitly link the devastating Russian heat wave of 2010 to climate change).
European Union wheat yields this year will be smaller in part because Spain is suffering from the second worst drought in fifty years. North and South Korea are facing the worst drought in a century. Shifts in glacial melt and rainfall are threatening crops in Pakistan.
The proliferation of locusts throughout West Africa is threatening household food security. Recent floods in Japan, India and Bangladesh are threatening rice crops. Argentina’s soy crops were severely depleted because of a shortage of rain. And in Mali, drought combined with other factors led to a major humanitarian disaster in the region. The list goes on.
Many of these conditions are record-setting, or the worst of their kind in decades and sometimes centuries. And climate projections threaten to make matters worse.
What this means is that it is possible that the global food market is about to witness an unusual amount of stress. It is not entirely clear if the market is prepared for it, or even if nations have the capacity to adequately respond.