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Climate change and food prices

Climate change and food prices

May 31, 2013

The turbulent times in the South African mining industry begs for new insights and new solutions, writes Robbie Louw, director at Promethium Carbon.

Recent research conducted in Cambridge, Massachusetts, links the social unrest that plagued the world during 2008/2009 and 2011 to high world food prices. The research found that social unrest is triggered when the international food price index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations rises above certain critical levels.

It linked 28 events of social unrest in 22 countries, in which more than 12 000 people died, to the food price index exceeding a critical level.

International food prices have spiked in the last two months due the extended drought in North America.

This drought caused the price of maize to rise by as much as 40% in a less than two months. It follows on a drought in the US in 2002 that was the worst drought since 1685, 300 years ago.

By mid-July this drought has seen 3 215 high temperature records broken in the US and over 50% of US counties were declared disaster areas. Scientists worldwide have linked the current drought to climate change.

Consumers are therefore seeing a link between droughts, food prices and social unrest. There is also a link with the current unrest at places like Marikana.

The vulnerability of the communities around the South African mining complexes makes them especially sensitive to food price volatility. This is an impact of climate change that has not been foreseen, and people need to start thinking about its impacts and solutions.

 

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