World Food Supply

Years ago, one of the consulting services we provided to our clients was market research, so they could adjust their firm’s direction.  (If six states surrounding highway design engineering firm were all planning to cut back in coming years, then, no matter talented the engineers were, getting new contracts would be difficult.)

When we completed our research, we had a clear picture of what was likely to happen in a given market in the next, for example, 8-10 years.  What we later discovered was that reality turned out exactly as we predicted – except – in 5-7 years!  That time foreshortening happened in every market forecast.

Now we’re seeing the same phenomenon affect all of us.  Forecasts for global warming – and increased severity of storms – are happening, and sooner than was predicted.  Forest fires we never could have imagined are happening all over the world. And as climate gets too warm, crops fail.  And when people can’t find food, they migrate to survive.  Here’s a report linking climate change to desertification and eventual crop loss.  Comments afterward.


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Global heating likely to hit world food

supply before 1.5C, says UN expert


Water scarcity threatening agriculture faster than

expected, warns Cop15 desertification president.


Fiona Harvey Environment editor

The Guardian

Sat 12 Aug 2023


The world is likely to face major disruption to food supplies well before temperatures rise by the 1.5C target, the president of the UN’s desertification conference has warned, as the impacts of the climate crisis combine with water scarcity and poor farming practices to threaten global agriculture.

Alain-Richard Donwahi, a former Ivory Coast defence minister who led last year’s UN Cop15 summit on desertification, said the effects of drought were taking hold more rapidly than expected. He said …


“Climate change is a pandemic that

we need to fight quickly. See how

fast the degradation of the climate

is going – I think it’s going even

faster than we predicted.


Everyone is fixated on 1.5C [above

pre-industrial levels], and it’s a very

important target. But actually, some

very bad things could happen, in terms

of soil degradation, water scarcity and

desertification, way before 1.5C.”


The problems of rising temperatures, heatwaves and more intense droughts and floods, were endangering food security in many regions, Donwahi said.


“[Look at] the effects of droughts on food security,

the  effects of droughts on migration of population,

the effect of droughts on inflation. We could have an

acceleration of negative effects, other than temperature.”


He said poor farming practices were not helping …


“The degradation of soil comes with

bad habits, and the way we do our

agriculture will lead to degradation

of the soil. When the soil is affected,

the yield is affected.”


Donwahi called on private sector investors to get involved and take advantage of opportunities for turning a profit. He said …


“The private sector has an interest in

agriculture, and the better usage of the

soil. We’re talking about [improving] yields.

We’re talking about agroforestry, which

is another way the private sector can have

a return on investment. We have to be in-

novative, to find new vehicles for finance.”


Governments around the world signed a treaty pledging to combat desertification in 1992, alongside the UN framework convention on climate change, which is the parent treaty to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and the UN convention on biodiversity, which aims to safeguard species abundance.

But the desertification treaty gains least attention, and last year’s Cop15 on desertification went largely unnoticed compared with the climate Cop27 and the biodiversity Cop15 last December. Desertification Cops are held less frequently than climate summits: the next desertification conference will be held in Riyadh in December 2024, while the next climate summit, Cop28, will be in Dubai in late November.

Donwahi said the world could not afford to ignore desertification.


“We need to solve all the problems

together. Desertification and drought

leads to climate change, leads to loss

of biodiversity. And when you have

climate change, you have droughts,

floods, storms.


“It’s not only the poor countries; every-

body is in the same boat [on food secur-

ity]. Climate change, droughts, storms,

floods don’t know any boundaries, they

don’t need a visa to go into a country.”


Rich countries should look to Africa for the solutions to the climate crisis, he added. Africa enjoys many of the natural resources – from minerals required for renewable energy technology, to forests, sun and vast groundwater reserves – needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, improve food security and preserve biodiversity. He said …


“Africa is a continent of solutions.

It’s a continent where you have

the most natural resources. The

people who have the finance

should help the people who have

the natural resources. It’s a win-win

situation, a partnership situation.”


He called on Africans to seize these opportunities.


“If the Africans realise that Africa is a

solution, they will act differently – they

will come with a more positive attitude,

that you’re fighting to find solutions

together. That’s how we should think – you

don’t want to always be the one waiting for

the help, for the handout, waiting cap in hand.”


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Now comes the difficult part of this information.  For those of us not living where there’s a food shortage, this problem becomes one of “Preventive Maintenance.”  All the facts say we should eat or exercise in certain ways, to experience better health.  But do we?  And when serious health problems arise, we’re hoping the physician doesn’t ask why you didn’t come in sooner.

Preventive maintenance has proven to be consistently less expensive and to provide a better quality-of-life experience. But … we don’t act until we feel pain.

After WWII, the U.S. was growing, the economy was good, and we created one of the best infrastructures in the world. But highways and bridges and water treatment plants age, as we all do.  And like us, governments are reticent to spend on preventive maintenance unless forced to – as when a bridge collapses or a water system is found to be poisoning local residents. Today, the U.S. is reported to have the worst infrastructure of developed countries. And costs are higher!

Well, the forecasts for over-use of fossil fuels have happened exactly as predicted.  And even solutions – cutting fossil fuel use, adjusting farming practices, and increasing forestation – were made evident.  And they actually work.  But … habits are comfortable ways of living, and therefore difficult to change   Why leave a known and comfortable way of life … unless we must?  Why go to a physician, sit in waiting rooms, and pay money to get poked and tested … unless we must?

The good news:  we do have solutions: E-cars, solar panels, organic farming practices, tree planting.  I even created a new series of 1-minute “Tips Videos” to help.

I think of the old Vaudeville saying at the end of the first act …


“You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!”


The time-foreshortening phenomenon we discovered when we did market research is exactly what’s happening now.  The storms and climate problems we had this year, will get worse.  We’ve experienced government inability to solve the problem.  Each of us, individually, must decide to act … and soon.

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