Droughts, Floods and Food
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: February 6, 2011
We¹re in the midst of a global food crisis ‹ the second in three years.
World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in
the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. These soaring prices have had
only a modest effect on U.S. inflation, which is still low by historical
standards, but they¹re having a brutal impact on the world¹s poor, who
spend much if not most of their income on basic foodstuffs.
So what¹s behind the price spike? American right-wingers (and the
Chinese) blame easy-money policies at the Federal Reserve, with at least
one commentator declaring that there is ³blood on Bernanke¹s hands.²
Meanwhile, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France blames speculators,
accusing them of ³extortion and pillaging.²
But the evidence tells a different, much more ominous story. While
several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really
stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted
agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the
kind of thing we¹d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse
gases change our climate ‹ which means that the current food price surge
may be just the beginning.
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