Thursday, November 28, 2013

Complex Disasters in a Globalized World:  A Look at the 2008 Food Crisis

Source: FAO Food Price Index (last accessed 27 October 2013). Click to enlarge.
Globalization means that we are all connected—for good or for bad.  Systems are connected across countries and sectors.  For instance, food production is intimately connected to energy, water, and finance, and drought in the United States can raise food prices for people all around the world.  Changes in one or a few factors in interlinked systems may trigger crises that cascade across time and space in unpredictable ways.

A new WRI issue brief, Weaving the Net [pdf], explores how complex, global crises can have profound impacts on low-income, vulnerable households. In many cases, climate change can exacerbate these impacts.  The world experienced this fact—to dramatic effect—when the food crisis unexpectedly erupted in 2008.

After being almost stable for 20 years, the FAO food price index more than doubled between 2007 and 2008, a spike unpredicted by any of the early warning systems.  This dramatic rise was due to a confluence of factors including: high oil prices due to increased demand that could not be met by increased production, a resulting demand and use of land for biofuel ethanol as a substitute for oil, low food reserves, and countries implementing food export bans to protect their domestic economies and citizens.

Complex Disasters in a Globalized World:  A Look at the 2008 Food Crisis

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