Max Keiser: As Friedman notes, the top nine global wheat importers are Middle Eastern countries, leaving them especially vulnerable to price or supply shocks brought on by climate change.
Must-Read: Tom Friedman On The Hidden Ways Climate Change Contributes To Global Insecurity
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has a new piece out today on a report that investigates the web of interconnections between climate change and global insecurity, particularly in the Arab Spring.
“The Arab Spring and Climate Change” is a product of cooperative efforts between the Center for American Progress (CAP), the Stimson Center, and the Center for Climate and Security. The report “doesn’t claim that climate change caused the recent wave of Arab revolutions,” Friedman writes. “But, taken together, the essays make a strong case that the interplay between climate change, food prices (particularly wheat) and politics is a hidden stressor that helped to fuel the revolutions and will continue to make consolidating them into stable democracies much more difficult.”
Anne-Marie Slaughter, one of the report’s lead authors, used the preface of the report to lay out the idea of a “stressor” as a useful framework for thinking about these issues. Borrowed from criminal science concepts, a stressor is a “sudden change in circumstances or environment” that interacts with a complicated web of other factors (often a psychological profile, in criminal science’s case) to create sudden, unforeseen, and volatile change. In this instance, climate shifts such as drought our heat waves act as stressors on everything from crop production to food security, water security, the migration of peoples, the stability of governmental and non-governmental networks, and the informal associations and interactions of both local and more widespread communities.
As Friedman points out, these forces can layer on top of one another in ways that make the world more insecure — instigating, shifting, or intensifying geopolitical events such as the recent uprisings in the Arab world:
As Friedman notes, the top nine global wheat importers are Middle Eastern countries, leaving them especially vulnerable to price or supply shocks brought on by climate change. And that vulnerability lines up with the potential for destabilization: in 2011, seven of those nine countries suffered political protests that killed civillians. Moreover, households in those countries spend over 35 percent of their incomes on food on average, versus less than 10 percent in developed countries. “Everything is linked,” Friedman says. “Chinese drought and Russian bushfires produced wheat shortages leading to higher bread prices fueling protests in Tahrir Square. Sternberg calls it the globalization of ‘hazard’”:
But Slaughter and Friedman also emphasized that the world’s increasing compelxity and decentralization offer possible solutions as well as challenges: Slaughter pointed out air quality reports by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing was then picked up by Chinese nationals, for example. And Friedman brought up how a new ID law, the advance of IT infrastructure, and new energy technology is all combining to make it easier for villagers in India to avoid moving into larger cities, and thus keeping carbon emissions lower:
Friedman concluded his New York Times column with a warning that while “we need to manage what is unavoidable and avoid what is unmanageable,” the Arab world is unfortunately moving in the opposite direction. Collectively, Arab states remain the biggest lobbyists for oil and fossil fuel subsidies, pouring $200 billion a year and as much as one-fifth of their own budgets into the effort, according to the International Monetary Fund. That spending crowds out investments they could be making in their own health and education systems, for example, while the young democratic institutions in many Arab states remain vulnerable to sectarian and tribal tensions.
The difficulties the Arab world faces in moving off of fossil fuels is yet one more reason why countries fortunate enough to be blessed with prosperity, advanced economies, and established democratic institutions — such as the United States — should be taking the lead in clean and renewable energy. They’re the countries best able to bear the up front costs and investments, the most likely to succeed, and the best positioned to export the technology once its developed.
By Jeff Spross, Mar 4, 2013