The Farmer Was The One Who Fed Us All

Not that this is really a surprise to anyone, but there are more studies coming out which confirm and strengthen the prediction of massive impacts on food — production, availability, cost — as a consequence of climate change. The world’s agricultural industry doesn’t have the technological capacity or the imaginative flexibility to prepare for the coming decades’ onslaught of unpredictable weather, failed monsoons, aquifer depletions, droughts, and steadily increasing temperatures.

Food’s gonna cost more. A lot more. And there will be less of it, which leaves farmers in poor countries in the wretched position of needing to sell the crops they’ve grown in order to get the money to buy the food they need to feed their families (because they’ve gone into monocropping in a big way and are no longer growing for their own needs). They will, of course, adapt — if by “adapt” you mean “starve.”

These predictions don’t take into account any other factors that might also work to push prices up: invasive insects, refugee crises, geopolitical instability, rising costs of transportation, etc., etc., et-gloomy-cetera.

Lead researcher Christoph Schmitz predicts a “drastic increase in demand for cropland,” perhaps an “increase in cropland by 2050 that is more than 50 percent higher in scenarios with unabated climate change than in those assuming a constant climate.” Think about that for a minute. That’s a lot of new land to come under cultivation — most of it in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

One of the reasons why demand for cropland is likely to increase was explored in a separate study, which concluded that while climate change may lead to higher agricultural yields in some regions, others will be hit by steep declines in food production.

“Potential climate change impacts on crop yields are strong but vary widely across regions and crops,” stated lead-author Christoph Müller. Adding that “for rice, wheat, maize, soybeans and peanuts, the study finds a climate-induced decrease in yields of between 10 percent and 38 percent globally by 2050 in a business-as-usual scenario of rising greenhouse-gas emissions, compared with current conditions.”

Müller argues that in order to deal with these changes that it will be necessary to create “a more flexible global agricultural trading system would be needed”—something that is very unlikely to happen. A far more likely response to vastly diminished agricultural productivity in many parts of the world will be mass-migration and/or war.

The new studies were just published in the journal Agricultural Economics.


“A far more likely response to vastly diminished agricultural productivity in many parts of the world will be mass-migration and/or war.” Thus the language of bureaucratic doublespeak applies to famine.

Think of Ireland in the 19th century, falling victim to the vulnerability of monocropping. Only this time, there’ll be nowhere to go.

The Famine Song by Johnny McEvoy

And with all due respect to Angelique Kidjo and Josh Groban (and to Sade, who I’m told first performed this piece), I doubt very much that starvation in Somalia hurts like “brand new shoes.”

Angelique Kidjo with Josh Groban “Pearls”

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