Krugman Links Climate Change, Food Scarcity and Mideast Unrest

Krugman Links Climate Change, Food Scarcity and Mideast Unrest

   By Allison A. Torrence, Associate, Jenner & Block LLP

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently wrote an article in the New York Times explaining his theory that climate change-caused food scarcity is triggering recent uprisings in the Middle East.  Krugman focuses his analysis on the impact that rising temperatures and severe weather have on the world’s food supply.  As has been widely reported, world food prices hit a record high in January.  This high price, Krugman opines, is due to “severe weather events [that] have disrupted agricultural production.”  Krugman analyzes the rising price of wheat as an example.  According to Krugman, wheat prices have almost doubled since the summer due to reduced production in Russia and other former Soviet countries.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the reduced wheat production in these countries has been caused largely by severe heat and droughts.   

Krugman acknowledges that no single weather event can be attributed to climate change, but he argues that extreme weather - like heat waves and droughts - is becoming more common due to climate change.  As more extreme weather causes greater disruption of the world’s food supply, prices will continue to increase.  Krugman concludes that the rising price of food will increasingly stir political unrest, which will in turn fuel more uprisings like those currently underway in the Middle East.

Paul Krugman; Droughts, Floods and Food, is available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/opinion/07krugman.html

Reprinted with permission from the Jenner & Block Corporate Environmental Law Blog.

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