Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Climate Change Seasons: Food Winter - Arab Spring -Societal Fall

At the onset of the Egypt uprising and the Arab Spring food price inflation in Egypt was over 20 percent. The increase was caused by the rising global price of wheat. The global price of wheat rose between 50 and 70 percent in 2010. As a result Egyptian budgets were drained. Egypt is among the world’s largest importers of wheat, and the global wheat market has been dynamic recently. The primary culprit for the rise in wheat costs that broke Egypt's bank leading up to the overthrow of the government came when Russia was hit by an unprecedented drought and heat wave that destroyed forty percent of its wheat harvest. Russia abruptly banned exports, and Egypt, which had just signed a big wheat import deal with Russia, was left having to find alternative sources. The Egyptian government tried to stabilize wheat prices through subsidies and rationing. But anxiety over food prices and bread shortages gained strength in the weeks and months before the protests. Some think the problem can be traced to climate change and its impacts on food security. The heat wave that destroyed Russia’s wheat harvest was no ordinary weather event that was on the outer margins of an expected summer temperature range, which in Russia is about four degrees Fahrenheit. The heat wave that hit Russia came in off the charts with an average temperature fourteen degrees Fahrenheit above the norm. The stresses climatic events like the one in Russia put on food supplies contributed to the unrest we see in the Middle East today and will result in more future social unrest around the globe. How can the nations of the world plan for a food shortage that is unpredictable and will be intermittent but will have cumulative societal impacts?

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