Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices: The costs of feeding a warming world

A report from Oxfam draws on new research that paints a startling view of the impacts of extreme weather on international staple crop prices, suggesting that current research is underestimating the implications of climate change on food insecurity.

The issue briefing, commissioned by Oxfam from the Institute of Development Studies, is based on research that models extreme weather event scenarios in 2030 and explores how food prices may be affected by climate-induced extreme weather if emissions are not reduced.


Extreme weather means extreme food prices. The report highlights the need for effective policy responses and recommends that additional research is needed to better understand how the global food system will be affected by climate change and extreme weather events.

"By 2030, the world may be even more vulnerable to the kind of drought witnessed in the US in 2012, as a greater dependence on US exports of wheat and maize combines with a rising incidence of drought."


The impact of climate change on food production can already be seen.

Extreme weather means worsening food insecurity and deepening poverty for vulnerable people in development countries.

Food price spikes are a matter of life and death to many people in developing countries, who spend as much as 75% of their income on food.

Extreme weather events in a single year could bring about price increases comparable to two decades of gradual price rises.

While short-term price spikes can be worse for vulnerable people than gradual price increases, the combination of long-term climate impacts and short-term shocks is of particular concern.

The average price of staple foods such as maize could more than double in the next 20 years.

Oxfam calls for more research to "stress-test" the global food system in order to identify its vulnerabilities and the policy options to increase resilience, as current models only consider the gradual effects of climate change without taking the impact of extreme weather into account.

The report asserts that developed countries need to deliver on climate change adaptation finance to the poorest.

"None of the scenarios presented in this research are inevitable. It is within our power to address our broken food system and strengthen its resilience, especially for the poorest consumers and food producers."

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Oxfam East Africa

Date: 2012
Authors: Tracy Carty
Organization: Oxfam
Strategic Approach: Framing, Other
Author: Tracy Carty
Organization: Oxfam
Strategic Approach: Framing, Other

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