I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature. - FAQs - Follow - Face - Ask - Donations - Climate Book Store - Submissions

Recent Tweets @climatecote
Posts tagged "food prices"

Call for urgent action in Sahel to prevent humanitarian emergency

The food crisis in the Sahel will turn into a humanitarian emergency unless urgent action is taken, said the NGO Oxfam as it launched a $36.3m (£23m) emergency appeal for west Africa on Friday.

Levels of malnutrition in areas of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and northern Senegal are becoming dangerously high, warns the NGO, hovering between a rate of 10% and 15%. Some areas have exceeded 15%, which is considered the emergency threshold by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification.

Among the indicators used to determine famine conditions are when acute malnutrition rates exceed 30% and when recorded deaths are more than two per 10,000 people a day.

The governments of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger have already declared emergencies and called for international assistance.

According to figures published by the UN last week, more than 13 million people are at risk of hunger in the Sahel, with more than 10 million now considered food-insecure. More than 1 million children are at risk of severe malnutrition.

The situation in the region is being blamed on a mix of drought, high food prices and conflict.

Via The Guardian

Donate $3: Oxfam

I’ve eaten at Toscanini’s. They have an incredible Sunday brunch. Definitively not for the budget conscious. 


The scoop on rising food costs

- Darcy Hutchinson savored her single scoop of mango ice cream on a recent afternoon at Toscanini’s, a gourmet ice cream shop famous for ingenious flavors. The treat cost $4.25 - up 40 cents from March - but the 27-year-old Tufts veterinary school student said she has grown accustomed to high prices.


Why China’s Ghost Towns Matter For the World Economy

It’s no surprise that the global recovery is facing a new round of setbacks, as the IMF reported in a new report issued today. But after high food prices, slow growth, and heavy debt, there’s another potential force emerging that could block the global recovery. 

This one starts with metal. Too much, as it’s turning out. China’s property market is showing signs of rusting. Home buys in major cities are slowing down. Construction outside the megatrapolises has infamously produced dozens of “ghost” towns that are actually more like stillborn cities, because they were designed for residents that never materialized

The People’s Bank of China has raised interest rates four times in the last two years and raised bank deposit requirements 11 times since January 2010, reports Caixin, a Chinese business magazine. This will slow down investment and make it more difficult for the country’s emerging middle class to move out to these theoretical cities. Few analysts are anticipating a full-scale meltdown of the Chinese housing market. But even a moderate dip reverberates.

Read more at The Atlantic

Wrong! The Atlantic gets Chinese growth wrong. The author barely whispers of a connection to the global economy to these handful of empty cities, and to thread interest rates and CPI together based on one IMF report - without question - is just poor reporting. For example, it’s disingenuous to say that the People’s Bank of China raised interest rates four times in the past year without providing context. In 2008, the rate was 5.58%. It’s currently at 6.31%. Big f’n whoop, Atlantic.

How quickly the Atlantic forgets that China just implemented it’s 11th five-year plan, which focuses on slowing growth. So of course they raised interest rates - they announced it months ago, and have been planning it for years.

As for housing bubbles, the Chinese do not have a history of mortgaging property - it’s brand new concept to 100s of millions of people. For the Chinese that do know, they’ve overpriced certain markets vis a vis speculation. But, to say that these regional effects are suddenly impacting global markets belies the fact that the markets were sans such ‘influence’ less then a decade ago! 

Why so much deference to the IMF?? Is the Atlantic a PR firm?? Do some reporting, or at least use google. The rural Chinese aren’t moving to these cities because there isn’t the infrastructure to bring people in. Rural residents barely know these new cities exist. Nor do they have incentive to move to them compared to existing cities, which are thousands of years old, are proven centers of economic stability, and are highly likely to contain family, friends, and other contacts - not to mention well developed routes to get there. New highways to these new cities are just that - new, nothing more. Why expect the poor to instantly be able to purchase a home, or even be interested in it? Certainly not just because they were built. So, yeah, of course they’re empty. The Atlantic can do better than regurgitate reports by the IMF. 

As for high food prices, China’s CPI is relatively and historically pretty low. It’s especially low considering such explosive growth. Does the Atlantic have a better idea as to where it should be considering this type of growth? Yes, it should be way higher, and way more out of control. But it’s not. It’s pretty darn stable. And the Chinese are aggressively regulating and tamping down prices (not to mention purchasing irrigable land in Africa). Further, China is extremely lucky that CPI hasn’t completely exploded due to several several extreme natural disasters impacting the agricultural sector. 

Agreed, China’s empty new cities are a problem. But they’re not a global problem. They’re a regional problem with respect the provinces and to report it as such is not cool. (And don’t get me started on regional corruption!). The Atlantic should stop exciting its readers with fluff pieces like this. 

Below is a list of nuked foods approved by the FDA. Labeling not required. The Bush II administration fought to suppress labeling of nuked food. The ag-industry lobbied for irradiated foods to be labeled “pasteurized.” In other words, there are foods in the supply chain that are irradiated with nuclear energy, infusing it with “safe-levels” of radiation, and manufacturers are not required to advertise it. Not kidding (click, but don’t forget to come back!!).

Here’s the FDA’s page on food irradiation.

Look, the food supply chain is much more fragile than we know - even a one month heat wave can have massive effects on ag-commodity prices and supply chain pressure, see here.

With climate change impacting our food supply, the agricultural industry is starting to adapt to a new warmer realty. Irradiating food is one rather nefarious method of adaptation that I condemn with every ounce of my being. On the upside, the EPA is now reviewing climate impacts to US food crops, though they’re really doing anything about it.

Ironically, it was George Bush I’s climate change program (a little known act he signed into law in 1990, called the GRCA) was first to study the impacts of climate change on the US food supply, here. Bush II killed the food supply review program in 2001. Bush II’s FDA approved expansion of the food irradiation program in 2004 and 2008.


Krugman’s latest piece in the times is a short exploration of how climate is impacting food prices. He explains that droughts and floods that have destroyed a few crops, have world wide impacts on food prices. He points to the uprising in Tunisia (where a food vendor sparked the uprising) and to Egypt, where food prices are now sadly suddenly beyond the reach of the majority of citizens. He falls short in explaining why western countries, such as the EU and the USA, have not experienced similar spikes in food prices. If you know why prices are low for western countries, please email me.

This is an important snap shot of regional diets that will be impacted by climate change (FAO). When prices rise in countries that do not have alternatives, millions of families are hurt, and (it would seem) politicians are to blame. I wrote about how the Russian heat wave impacted world wheat prices, here. I explained that some countries will have to begin to switch their diets in order to accommodate shortages - a daunting task if the populations do not have ready market access to alternatives. I also wrote about possible solutions (printing food from a machine) being explored in a Cornell University laboratory, here. Printing food is exactly the sort of conveniences we saw in the Jetsons.

Regional diets, by contribution of total calories (FAO, 2003). This is one of my favorite charts when I look at climate impacts on agriculture (source is here [fat pdf], but I warn it’s pretty dense). Crops are impacted by up to 10% for every 1˚C in temperature change. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s compounded in the market exponentially, impacting access to food to billions of people. Remember the Russian wheat crop problem last year? Heavy rains in Russia wiped out 20% of its wheat yields. Now, on its face this type of event shouldn’t much affect markets, since there are built in expectations for supply and demand, and for the occasional non-deliverable. But Russia’s failure is thought to be the primary cause for the cost of wheat to rise by 50% since 2007! Think about this, dozens of countries grow wheat, and Russia isn’t even in the top 5 producers in the world. That’s left to China, the US, the EU, India and “other” (see below).

Russia is a distant 6th in production yields worldwide, yet the isolated incident nearly doubled the price of wheat in 2010. The combination of more intense rains and floods in some regions, and droughts and desertification in others, is major reason why commodity speculators are pushing prices to unprecedented highs. For you at home, next time you go to your local Krogers or Whole Foods, check out the price of wheat flour, it’s around $8 per bag (compare to $2-3 per bag in 2009). Now back to the chart. What do price increases in wheat mean for those countries that get a lot of their calories from wheat? China and S. Asia, it seems, will have to look to rice as a replacement. But rice, as we’ve seen, is already volatile due to climate.

Five year rice index (Index Mundi).

Finally, back to the first chart at the top, E. Africa, the Andeans, and Central America will look to various alternative sources of calories, too, such as maize and sugar cane, and possibly more meat. The bottom line, swings in climate impacted crops have untold, unexpected exponential impacts on food prices. And the food commodities markets are are proving they are not adaptable nor prepared for climate impacts. If I were a Miltonian “free-market” economist, I’d be very, very afraid.