Our economy deteriorating pages: Climate change impacts on food supply

In his writing and interviews of early 2020, just as the Covid pandemic was developing into a global public health and economic crisis, Nouriel Roubini predicted a “Greater Depression for the Decade of the 2020s.” This caught our attention and we returned to his predictive warnings throughout the past 18 months since he first made them.

The brief summary of these “ten deadly drivers” appears in a short Yahoo Finance video, worth watching.

New York University’s Stern School of Business Professor of Economics & Roubini Macro Associates, LLC CEO Nouriel Roubini joins Yahoo Finance’s Julia La Roche to break down his economic outlook and recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic.[1]
June 29, 2020. Video link here

and I pointed out there were ten deadly drivers of this disruption and economic deficiencies. This started after the Global Financial Crisis, but they are being exacerbated by this Coronavirus crisis. Things like

1. Tax deficits and default.

2. Poor demographics is going to be a big liability.

3. Or initially deflation followed by debasement of currencies–debasement as we monetize the fiscal deficits; we’re going to end up, eventually with inflation.

4. We have features of disruption with A.I. and automation.

5. And then, rising inequality.

6. And then you have de-globalization, as there is a backlash against trade, immigration and open markets.

7. And then you have a democracy backlash.

8. And then from there you go to this duopolistic rivalry between the U.S. and China,

9. and the digital rivalry between U.S. and China as well.

10. And you finish with deadly, manmade disasters like pandemics and climate change–they’re not natural disasters, but as we know are manmade.

You combine these ten forces–and they’re all very disruptive–and you might have, eventually, a greater depression. But this is not the story for this year or next, but for the middle of the decade.

In keeping up with current events, the years 2020 and 2021 were filled with news stories highlighting the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the U.S. and global economy. In 2021 we began to see a number of stories which were highlighting the impacts of another human-made crisis: the effects of climate change on food supplies and the prices of food. Here is a brief run-down of some recent headlines that illustrate how the manmade crisis of global climate change is going to impact the hunger and poverty situation in the USA, particularly among the bottom 40% of our population.

The piece from Mongabay raises alarm over the second manmade crisis Roubini mentions, the impact of climate change–in particular the impact on food supply for the world’s people.

Mongabay Series: Agroecology, Covering Climate Now, Covering the Commons, Planetary Boundaries

A world of hurt: 2021 climate disasters raise alarm over food security”

by Sue Branford and Glenn Scherer on 4 August 2021

Human-driven climate change is fueling weather extremes — from record drought to massive floods — that are hammering key agricultural regions around the world.

  • From the grain heartland of Argentina to the tomato belt of California to the pork hub of China, extreme weather events have driven down output and driven up global commodity prices.
  • Shortages of water and food have, in turn, prompted political and social strife in 2021, including food protests in Iran and hunger in Madagascar, and threaten to bring escalating misery, civil unrest and war in coming years.
  • Experts warn the problem will only intensify, even in regions currently unaffected by, or thriving from the high prices caused by scarcity. Global transformational change is urgently needed in agricultural production and consumption patterns, say experts.

Crop yield reductions were noted by Producer-dot-com, which used the tem “disaster”, mentioning drought and flooding as causes, but did not go in the direction of linking these events to the increasing impact of climate change itself.

Crop failure story Jul 27

The trade was shaken by the July 12 U.S. Department of Agriculture monthly supply and demand estimate that pegged American spring wheat production at only 345 million bushels, down 41 percent from last year.

The disaster playing out in the northern part of this continent’s grain belt is finally making itself felt on crop futures markets.

The headline stories from 2021 are alarming, but there have been many warning stories over the past decade and before. For example, this September, 2019 story from Yale Climate Connnections–

A brief guide to the impacts of climate change on food production
by Daisy Simmons September 18, 2019

It all amounts to far more than anecdotal inconvenience: The U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment report projects that warming temperatures, severe heat, drought, wildfire, and major storms will “increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity,” threatening not only farmers’ livelihoods but also food security, quality, and price stability.

Climate change poses not just one but a whole slew of challenges to farmers – and to the larger communities that depend on them for food. From erratic precipitation to changing seasons, consider just these five key climatic changes and how they stand to affect food availability now and in the future:

1) More extreme weather can harm livestock and crops. Major storms have always devastated farms, whether from damaging winds during a storm, or erosion and landslides that can rear up even as the storm subsides. But now they’re becoming even more common. In spring 2018, for example, unusually heavy rain and snow storms caused massive flooding across the U.S. Midwest, leaving some areas 10 feet deep in sand. In Nebraska alone, farmers lost an estimated $440 million of cattle. As a result of these flooding conditions, many farmers had to delay spring planting. Delays in commodity crops like corn and soybeans aren’t just stressful for farmers, either – they could lead to food price volatility and even potential food insecurity.

2) Water scarcity across the U.S. Southwest makes it more expensive and difficult to sustain crops and livestock. Drought is in the long-term outlook across the U.S. West, with declining snowpack making it more challenging to keep reservoirs full through summer. Lack of adequate water can easily damage or destroy crops, dry up soil, and threaten livelihoods. Between 2014-2016, for example, California endured an estimated $3.8 billion of direct statewide economic losses to agriculture as a result of drought.

3) Seasons aren’t what they used to be. Growing seasons are starting earlier and getting hotter in a warming climate. A longer growing season, over time, could theoretically have some advantages, but it also presents more obstacles in the short term, such as an uptick in pest populations is possible, with more generations possible per year. Early spring onset can also cause crops to grow before the soil holds enough water and nutrients, or to ruin fruit crops that bud early and then experience later spring frost. Plus, warmer winters can affect other farming practices like grain storage.

Parched and fire-damaged ag fields pose mounting challenges to farmers and consumers.

4) Wildfire can devastate farms – even when the flames don’t actually reach them. Ranchers across the West have recently seen major losses as a result of worsening fire seasons, from outright loss of life to charred grazing lands and decimated hay stocks. What’s more, “secondary impacts” abound, from a smoky taint that can ruin wine, to the ordeal of keeping a farm operational when fires are raging nearby and evacuation orders seem just around the corner. All this also causes costs to mount given that the respiratory dangers of laboring in smoky, excessively hot conditions can force farms to send workers home in the height of harvest season.

5) Warmer weather and rising CO2 levels adversely affect food supply, safety and quality. According to a 2019 IPCC land use report, between 25 and 30 percent of the food produced worldwide is wasted, not all of it for the same reasons. In developed countries, for instance, consumers, sometimes seemingly with abandon, simply discard what they see as “excess” or “surplus” food. In developing countries, much of the waste is brought about by a lack of refrigeration as products go bad between producers and consumers. The IPCC report estimates that food waste costs about $1 trillion per year and accounts for about 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from food systems. Meanwhile, some two-billion humans worldwide are overweight or obese even as nearly one billion are undernourished, highlighting the inefficiencies and inequities in food distribution.

Going back a bit further in time we note this story from 2014,

Climate change already impacting food supplies, says UN report

March 31, 2014 / 3:08 PM / CBS/AP

“Climate change is happening, the signs of it, the impacts, are detectible already,” says Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, lead author of the UN’s latest report on climate change. “If you live in a city, if you live along the coast, or if you eat to live, this is a problem you have to worry about.”

A review of scientific research conducted since 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report definitively concludes that the effects of climate change are already impacting everything from global safety to food supplies.

“There is no one on Earth who escapes the effects of climate change,” Oppenheimer told CBS News. The most pressing matter, he said, is food supply.

A warmer world will push food prices higher, trigger “hotspots of hunger” among the world’s poorest people, and put a crunch on supplies of Western delicacies like fine wine and robust coffee, according to the 32-volume report issued Monday.

Looking back to the era of the “Great Recession” and its aftermaths, we see that Scientific American had looked into the problem of climate change as it had impacted the Arab world, leading to heightened impacts in the “Arab Spring” events which began in 2011, the same year as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in the USA.

Climate Change and Rising Food Prices Heightened Arab Spring

The effects of climate change on the food supply exacerbated the underlying tensions that have led to ongoing Middle East instability
By Ines Perez, ClimateWire on March 4, 2013

If the Arab Spring taught us something, it is that the effects of climate change can serve as stressors, contributing to regional instability and conflict, experts said.

In a report published last week, researchers from the Center for American Progress, the Center for Climate and Security and the Stimson Center examined the role of climate change in the Middle East’s upheaval during 2010 and 2011. Looking at long-term trends in rain, crops, food prices and migration, they were able to determine how these factors contributed to social instability in the region.

“The Arab Spring would likely have come one way or another, but the context in which it did is not inconsequential. Global warming may not have caused the Arab Spring, but it may have made it come earlier,” the report says.

For people who demand more of a peer-reviewed approach to the literature on global climate change and food production / food supply, here is a search-string for you to explore, using Google Scholar, and yielding results limited to stories done since 2017:

Search string: “climate change impacting food supply”–approx. 11,000 articles available


For everyone engaged in mutual aid work such as hunger task forces, or in Portage County, WI, the “Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership,” I will go out on a limb a bit here and suggest that now is the time for hunger-focused groups to partner up with the activist youth who are engaged in climate-change issues, the effort to leave behind fossil fuels (such as pipeline protests) and so forth. The addition human-energy input that will come from forming such coalitions will, I think, yield more dramatic results than having folks remain in “issue silos.”

My further suggestion is that hunger task forces should begin a transition from pure mutual-aid models, to strong advocacy on public policy change. This necessitates, of course, engagement with local, state, and federal governments. Not everyone engaged in the mutual aid work may be at liberty to engage in strong policy advocacy, and we recognize that Everyone should do what they can, up to the limits of what their position allows.

“Save as many as you can.”

In addition to Nouriel Roubini’s predictive framework, this will be informed by Nate Hagens, Labyrinth Consultants, Ugo Bardi and his Seneca Effect, Gail Tverberg and her Our Finite World site, League of Revolutionary Black Workers; Post-Carbon Institute and their Resilience-dot-org site, and others who grasp the concepts that energy and environment ARE the economy; there can be no separation.

So if you want to collaborate, submissions to


(no affiliation with Green Party nor the Green New Deal)

[1] Who is Nouriel Roubini?
Nouriel Roubini (born March 29, 1958) is an American econnomist He teaches at New York University’s Stern School of Business and is chairman of Roubini Macro Associates LLC, an economic consultancy firm.

The child of Iranian Jews, he was born in Turkey and grew up in Italy. After receiving a BA in political economics at Bocconi University, Milan and a doctorate in Intenational Economics at Harvard, he became an academic at Yale and a visiting researcher/advisor at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Federal Reserve, World Bank, and Bank of Israel. Much of his early research focused on emerging markets. During the administration of President Bill Clinton, he was a senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisers, later moving to the United States Treasury Department as a senior adviser to Timothy Geithner, who was Treasury Secretary under Barack Obama.