Jim Baird
+ Your AuthorsArchive @JimBair62221006 Talking with everyone I can -on & offline- about: ▫️international impacts of the #ClimateCrisis▫️co-benefits of #ClimateAction▫️#FoodSecurity ▫️ #Renewables ▫ Sep. 03, 2021 17 min read

Food security and climate change: a critical warning for humanity-

Thread synthesizing peer-reviewed research, current news, market intelligence analysis & more.

#CodeRed #ActNow #ClimateCrisis #foodblogger #foodsecurity #news

In sum:

1) Significant climate change impacts on food systems are already happening, & the risk of multi-breadbasket failures is increasing,

2) We will need to adapt, but

3) There are limits to adaptation - we urgently, urgently need to cut GHG emissions & draw down CO2.

This thread consists of 3 parts:

Part 1 - The Present
Part 2 - Warnings
Part 3 - Choosing our Future


Part 1 - The Present

“The probability of simultaneous drought across multiple regions is increasing. Concurrent crop losses in major production regions can cause price spikes and have cascading effects on food access, famine and food riots.”


The consequences of our inaction on climate change already include dramatically reduced food security for the most vulnerable, and for example, the current “climate-change induced” famine in Madagascar:


But climate change impacts on agriculture are visible everywhere there is extreme weather

These attract little media attention, but have significant cumulative effects, especially with extreme extremes like the heat dome & flooding in Europe

The scar tissue is building up.

Within a year:

A North American heat dome &

Drought extending "from Vancouver Island to southern Quebec, down into the United States, into California, right into Mexico... it's enormous."

"nothing grows without water. That's just a fact of life."


Devastating oats:

'As drought conditions bake the upper reaches of the U.S. Plains, American farmers are now expected to harvest their smallest oats crop in records that go back to 1866.'

“There will be very few supplies left after this year”


And wheat:

‘A drought in eastern Washington state that is the worst since 1977 has devastated what is normally the fourth largest U.S. wheat crop’


In Canada too:

‘the drought is unique in how widespread it is. In the past, provinces may have seen pockets of drought where wheat quality would drop... Now, the situation is inverse: In Alberta, for example, 80% of the crops are of lesser quality'


Double digit drops in output of major crops:

'Canada, the world’s biggest canola grower and a major wheat producer, forecasts a 26% drop in supplies of its main crops as drought ravages output and inventories shrink.'


Baking berries on the bush & more:

"We’ve had rain and we’ve had some heat (over the years) but nothing, nothing like this. This is just crazy."

"All the leaves have been burnt"

"One of my growers, he lost 100% all the cauliflower, broccoli”


The dryness was "unprecedented… It is the driest nine-month period on record, since 1895”

'Farmers should not underestimate the drought of 2021... NASA rates the soil moisture in the region at the 1 to 2 percentile — for soil that is 0-100 cm deep'


In Mexico- a growing water crisis due to drought

“I have no doubt that in 2022 there will be a crisis.

The reservoirs are completely depleted.”

As of July ~70% of Mexico was affected by drought


'Two years of extreme drought have turned large stretches of northern Mexico into a boneyard. Between starvation & ranchers forced to prematurely sell or slaughter... the number of cattle in Sonora has dropped from 1.1 million to ~635,000'


South America-

Chile is a major global fruit exporter, supplying Asia, Europe and Latin America
( https://producereport.com/article/asia-replaces-us-chiles-top-fruit-export-market )

It has recently supplied ~13-15% of all US fruit imports ( https://freshplaza.com/article/9172119/imported-fruits-most-loved-by-americans/ )

& now... this entire sector is failing due to climate change.


'Fruit growers in Chile are reportedly on red alert following the driest July on record'

“The agricultural and fruit world is almost in a state of shock when it comes to this huge problem"


'A punishing, decade-long drought in Chile has gone from bad to worse... lack of precipitation this year has left the towering & typically snowcapped Andes above the city mostly bare, reservoir levels low & farm fields parched.'


Argentina also suffering from a ‘historic drought’-

'with major impacts for agriculture, transport and the economy'


And Brazil-

"We're facing a 'dry season' that in reality is going to last one-and-a-half to two years"

'hurting key farming states... The country's sugar cane, coffee, orange, corn and soy crops are all under threat'


"For eight years, it hasn’t been raining as much as it tends to rain. It’s like a water tank that doesn’t get refilled, and each year we use up more & more hoping that the following year things will improve, but that better year has yet to come.”


All this straining water supplies critical for agriculture-

'The country with the most freshwater resources on the planet steadily lost 15% of its surface water since 1991'

"This is not just happening in Brazil, it’s happening all over the world.”


Europe's extreme rainfall also caused major crop damage-

'Record rainfall in parts of Europe including Germany, Belgium, Switzerland & the Netherlands has inundated fields, destroyed crops, & caused major disruption to production sites’


E.g. in Belgium-

'Floods deal heavy blow to agriculture' “Due to the very heavy rainfall, up to 200 litres per square metre, entire hectares have been washed away. Other areas are so wet that it is impossible to harvest"


& Extreme heat in the south was ruinous:

“People don’t understand that the damage is everywhere”

“All of us who work in this sector, in agriculture, understand it. And we are the base of everything. When you take the broad view, Europe is dying”


And drought wreaking havoc across Central Asia & the Middle East-

#Algeria- Cereal harvest set to fall 35-40% this year due to drought “Drought has hit all provinces in the east and west, mainly those known for high production.”



"Agricultural production, in particular strategic crops, were affected by the severe drought resulting from the little rainfall that barely reached 60% of the annual average, & the increase in temperatures of 6 to 7 degrees above the average"


This translated into a "huge impact of climate change... all rain-fed plantations have been taken out of investments & even the irrigated wheat area production has gone down 50%" 12.4 million Syrians suffer from food insecurity & hunger


Iraq too:

'In Iraq, large swathes of farmland... have already been depleted of water. Wheat production is expected to go down by 70% because of the drought'


Leading to a warning by '13 aid groups working in the region... to tackle the imminent water crisis emerging from climate change'

“The total collapse of water & food production for millions of Syrians and Iraqis is imminent”



'alarming forecasts for the agricultural sector this year due to drought. Average precipitation levels have fallen 25% below normal seasonal amounts, highlighting the ever-growing impact of global warming'



"Look at how the land thirsts. Everything I planted… is dead."

'Experts say Jordan is now in the grip of one of the most severe droughts in its history, but many warn the worst is yet to come.'

"The situation is critical"


Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan & more in Central Asia hit by extreme heat & drought

'total loss of crops' or 'large-scale crop failures' in several provinces in Kyrgyzstan & Turkmenistan.


'Kazakhstan expects its 2021 grain crop to contract by 24% to 15.3mn tonnes amid the major drought across much of Eurasia that has hit main grain producing regions'



'Snow & rainfall were nearly half their normal levels in parts of the country'

'As dry spells become more regular, aid interventions will need to adjust, said the FAO’s Aryal:

“Are we going to respond to a drought every year?”'


Asia earlier this year-

'China's agriculture authority is ramping up efforts to ensure ample food supply in China amid extreme weather conditions this year that have posed challenges to the nation's food production in some areas'


China’s Henan province, was hit by a year’s worth of rain -more than 2 feet- in just 3 days, impacting 2.4 million acres of cropland

The province accounts ~1/3 of the national wheat supply & around a tenth of the nation’s corn, vegetable & pork



'Rainfall in the seven months through February was less than half the historic average', where ' Farmers who need to flood paddies to raise rice, lotus root and other thirsty crops have been hit hard'


Beyond dramatic one-off events, what is emerging is emerging is a pattern of increased volatility in weather that further burdens farmers.

Widely referred to as ‘wild weather’, ‘wacky weather’ or ‘crazy weather’

...but rarely discussed in the context of climate change.


A more specific recurring pattern is ‘whiplash’ between drought and extreme rain, often leading to dramatic flooding that poses unique challenges, particularly where irrigation is not available, or in already flood prone regions.


Extreme weather also disrupts food transportation:

'Wildfires in British Columbia continue to disrupt Prairie grain movement' 'all train movement, including for grain, through British Columbia’s wildfire-ravaged southern Interior, is “hit & miss”


'Ships leaving the Argentine grains hub of Rosario on the Parana River are having to cut cargoes by 25% due to severely low water ... The Parana, which carries some 80% of Argentina's farm exports, is at a 77-year low level amid prolonged dryness'


'Key U.S. Crop Export Elevator Damaged in Hurricane Ida'

'A grain elevator damaged by Hurricane Ida in Reserve, Louisiana is responsible for nearly 9% of America’s bulk seaborne exports of corn, soybeans and wheat so far in 2021'


Extreme heat kills farm workers

'People laboring in the fields “are being used as a human shield to buffer the rest of the country against the most violent effects of climate change”'


Wildfires disrupt irrigation

“When we arrive at a Mad Max scenario, yes, irrigation will likely be needed"

But 'Wildfires burning synthetic materials have leached carcinogenic substances... & extreme heat causes power outages, which shut off water'


Climate change exacerbated wildfires are also making farms too risky to insure.


Hot, dry conditions bolster grasshopper populations, adding to drought misery-

'For a fourth year in a row, Manitoba's grasshopper population is on the rise and causing more issues for farmers already struggling to make it through drought'


All of which breeds despair, "Extreme stress, desperation"

"We know producers [whose] crops this year aren't any higher than the stubble... There is no yield. Farmers are in contracts for their seed & grain they're not going to be able to fulfil."


“We are seeing a lot of despair right now, a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety"

“We've got a lot of multi-generational farmers that are worried, ‘Am I going to be the one this year that can't make this farm last and sustain?’"


All of this to say the present is bad.

But as highlighted in Part 2, the 𝙣𝙚𝙖𝙧 future is looking much, much worse without a dramatic course shift.

#ActNow #ClimateCrisis #foodblogger

Part 2: Warnings

If this seems repetitive - that’s partly the point:

We have so, so many warnings from so many agencies, corporations & researchers that we simply can't afford to ignore them any longer.

We begin with market intelligence analysis firms.

Tridge a market intel firm operating in 40 countries, with clients including Deutsche Bank, FAO, the Singapore Food Agency, the Australian Dept of Agriculture & Water Services, Nestle & Unilever, recently issued the following stark warnings.


"Due to extreme weather conditions, the agriculture supply chain is likely to experience continuous disruptions, leading to long-term price fluctuations in agricultural products across the world."


"If this trend continues for the next few years, the global society will encounter the issue of “Survival,” unprecedented food shortage, & agflation”


Gro-Intelligence, named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential companies & led by Morgan Stanley's former commodities VP also details how recent 'Climate-related disasters struck one after another, impacting crop production around the world.'


'After years in a row of global climate “anomalies" & lower than expected crop production, it seems prudent to reinforce preparations, in 2021 & beyond, to manage for these new climate & production norms & the anomalies that will develop from here on'

Consulting giant McKinsey recently detailed how the global food system is vulnerable to climate change due to dependence on a handful of grains, geographic concentration of production, limited grain storage, and other factors.


We also have warnings from researcher scientists at NASA-

“The potential risk of multi-breadbasket failure is increasing. All of these things are happening at the same time.”



Noting the increasing odds “of a devastating food system shock”, particularly in light of “unprecedented weather extremes that have rocked the world recently”


Peer reviewed research in turn points towards a long list of rapidly escalating, converging crises for food production, all exacerbated by climate change.


One of the most off-cited changes to food systems arising from climate change involves shifting climatic zones

-off-cited specifically because it is incessantly & misleadingly used to argue that “We’ll be able to grow more food in northern regions!”


In fact, adaptive crop migration has already been widespread, BUT

“Expanding agriculture into new areas is extremely environmentally damaging, decreasing carbon storage, harming water quality, reducing wildlife habitat, and biodiversity”


Furthermore, our current climate change trajectory will lead us to a situation characterized by

“more than a third of current global food production falling into conditions in which no food is produced today – that is, out of safe climatic space.”


And finally, those who focus solely on the adaptive benefits of shifting of climatic zones inevitably overlook the increasingly dramatic impacts from extreme weather detailed elsewhere in this thread.


Research also points towards 'A global observation of an ongoing atmospheric drying... since the early 2000s'

"We believe a climate change-driven increase in atmospheric drying will reduce plant productivity & crop yields"


“evapotranspiration has increased by about 10% since 2003, which is more than previously estimated, & is mostly due to warming temperatures”

'As the world warms, evapotranspiration will accelerate, speeding up the drying of land & vegetation'


India provides an important example of what these trends will exacerbate-

'huge swaths of [India] will run out of groundwater sooner than expected. Winter crop harvests are at risk of decreasing by 20% overall, and 68% in the over-exploited regions'


Topsoil loss & desertification are growing concerns in many areas

'If soil continues to erode at current rates, U.S. farmers could lose a half-inch of topsoil by 2035—more than 8x the amount of topsoil lost during the Dust Bowl'


Desertification is a huge climate change exacerbated threat in many key growing regions including:

Spain ( https://www.ft.com/content/0d38e8d3-3f20-4818-8751-740d05f8ac13 ), and

Italy ()


Climate change -together with other factors- poses a significant risk for pollinators that are critical for food production.

‘three-quarters of the crops grown in the world need pollinators to give a full yield’


Climate change exacerbated food shocks may also have disproportionate impacts on food prices due to a concentrated food system, in combination with inevitable protectionist actions.


'restriction by only three key exporters of each crop would increase the price of wheat by 70%, while maize and rice would rise by 40% & 60%. When combining this with potential local shocks that occurred last year, the prices would nearly double'


And research demonstrates an increasing likelihood that weather extremes may overwhelm food reserves

'In some affected regions, such as South Asia, the amount of food required to offset such an effect is triple the region’s current food reserves.'


Finally, a wildcard-

several studies point towards the fact that “tipping could be imminent” - if tipping points are crossed, we may enter a new domain of significant & abrupt regional/global food insecurity


Part 3 - Choosing our Future

A notable impact of all of the extremes detailed above is that we already experience climate change related food price shocks on a regular basis as detailed in this thread-


Furthermore many recent climate change related price spikes have impacted key staples and comfort foods for those in wealthy countries -e.g. coffee, beer, wine


More broadly, we are already witnessing severe regional impacts (e.g. the risk of famine in Madagascar), and

Are aggressively, rapidly destabilizing a climate that has been the fundamental basis for all of agriculture.

This is our baseline.


Therefore, though we cannot make definitive statements on global food futures, we are playing a very risky game, in which the best case scenario is a worsening version of the present:

A growing risk of famine & food shortage in vulnerable regions & food inflation elsewhere

'The FAO on Thursday cut its estimate for world grain stockpiles, partly because of a worsening wheat-crop outlook amid prolonged drought in North America & unfavorable weather in other major growers such as Russia.'


*This is now*

"We will need very good weather” going into next season

“If anything on the supply side fails to meet expectations, we could stay in this high-price situation for much longer”

(can we really count on 'very good weather'?)


An important point is that we will still see localized bumper crops. All things climate change are non-linear, but agricultural disasters will continue to occur with increasing frequency & intensity, tracking overall trends in extreme weather.


All of this raises the question: can we just adapt our way out of this?

The reality is that we NEED to adapt. Some changes to our climate are already entrenched, and ramping up adaptation is already a reality.


A full suite of measures will inevitably come into play, from conventional to exotic, including: regenerative agriculture, GMOs, indoor farming, seaweed farming & more.

As part of this, we should also focus on low-hanging fruit like food waste.


Wherever we can, we should deploy measures that offer potential for simultaneous mitigation of climate change, adaptation & other benefits - including notably regenerative techniques.


The incredible inefficiency of cycling crops through animals, & using agricultural land for non-food purposes will also come under much greater scrutiny

Will we keep looking the other way as growing numbers starve while we fatten our cattle?


And on an individual level, many can and should take steps to grow their own food and support local agriculture - there are many great examples of local initiatives to grow food, support biodiversity and build community here (thread)


All that said, adaptation alone will NEVER be enough - many of the solutions that receive the most press are effectively heavily marketed techno fixes with lack of clarity around their effectiveness, scalability and costs.


& There are limits to adaptation-

“We have to breed crops for conditions that we don’t even know right now what they are going to be. Things are changing so rapidly that we need to be able to anticipate what the problems are before they happen”


We have already hit some of these limits-


And climate change continues to throw new wrenches into our food system -as detailed in this thread- all of which will make adaptation increasingly less viable.


So we MUST mitigate -above all else.

All the adaptation in the world will not be enough to secure global food security in the face of unmitigated climate change.

We must act now, with deep, rapid emission cuts & other actions to draw down GHGs.


The lack of attention to this issue, & the lack of action by our elected leaders is nothing short of astonishing & is emblematic of their breathtaking incompetence on the broader #ClimateCrisis

Please share this widely on & off #ClimateTwitter & demand urgent change.


For more on how climate change exacerbated extreme weather has recently impacted agriculture, please follow me, and/or see the following threads

2020 ()

2019 ()


Please help boost this thread which thoroughly details the need for urgent #ClimateAction to address food security.


You can follow @JimBair62221006.


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