Climate, food and national security at a crossroads
The Cattle Site
19 March 2020
In this podcast, ffinlo Costain interviews Caitlin Werrell, co-founder of the Centre for Climate and Security and Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, the UK's former Climate, Energy and Security Envoy, to explore the relationship between climate change, the global food system and national security.
Numerous UN reports and political commentaries have theorised that climate change will negatively impact food availability – putting vulnerable countries at risk of food shortages and political instability. However, the analysis often overlooks the ways wealthy and developed countries could be impacted by a warming climate. According to leading experts Caitlin Werrell, co-founder of the Centre for Climate and Security and Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, high-income countries and established democracies may not be as insulated from the effects of climate change as previously thought.
Society is nine meals away from anarchy
According to Werrell’s analysis, the food supply of the developed world may be more vulnerable to climate change than we realise. Wealthy countries like the United Kingdom and United States are only a few steps away from significant supply chain vulnerabilities and weaknesses if their food infrastructure is eroded by climate change.
Developed countries tend to rely on food imports for staple goods. They are also integrated in complex supply chains with countries that are highly susceptible to climate impacts. Food demand from wealthy western consumers is high and constant, and reliance on just-in-time logistics means that food supplies can be knocked off course in extreme weather events.
She also states that global warming will emphasise existing inequalities in developed nations and could exacerbate latent civil unrest.
If we continue our existing greenhouse gas emissions and warming trajectories, developed countries could face severe disruptions to food and water supplies by 2060. Werrell believes that making our food infrastructure more resilient is of paramount importance – and that we need to start developing contingency plans.
Morisetti echoes much of Werrell’s analysis, telling Costain that fears of an uncertain future are valid. The global population is still growing, and as countries get wealthier, increased consumption patterns will strain the world’s finite resources. The fact that some corners of the world live in abundance while others live in poverty will cause tension as well.
In his experience, food – or the lack of it – is often at the centre of social breakdown. He quips that, “society is nine meals and two days of water away from tensions and instabilities.”
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