Monday, August 16, 2010

lester brown on rising temperatures and rising food prices

climateprogress.org | It’s not news that Lester Brown is warning about our unsustainable approach to feeding the planet. But it is news that Scientific American has run a major article by him on how “The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse.”

Brown’s “Key Concepts”:

* Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos.
* Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.
* Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production.
* Without massive and rapid intervention to address these three environmental factors, the author argues, a series of government collapses could threaten the world order.

Brown’s warnings, ignored for too long, are now being repeated at the highest levels. For instance, I previously blogged on the UK government’s chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, who laid out something very close to this collapse scenario in his speech yesterday to the government’s Sustainable Development UK conference in Westminster (see “When the global Ponzi scheme collapses (circa 2030), the only jobs left will be green“):

You can see the catastrophic decline in those [food] reserves, over the last five years or so, indicates that we actually have a problem; we’re not growing enough food, we’re not able to put stuff into the reserves….

I am going to look at 2030 because that’s when a whole series of events come together….

I will leave you with some key questions. Can nine billion people be fed? Can we cope with the demands in the future on water? Can we provide enough energy? Can we do it, all that, while mitigating and adapting to climate change? And can we do all that in 21 years time? That’s when these things are going to start hitting in a really big way. We need to act now. We need investment in science and technology, and all the other ways of treating very seriously these major problems. 2030 is not very far away.