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« Nice article on the Shabab (successor to Somalia's Council of Islamic Courts) | Main | What is in a war? »
5:05AM

The Unflat World of Global Food Production

Last week's Economist carried a feature on a recent wave of farmland purchases in poorer parts of the world. The buyers? Cash-rich emerging markets and Arab oil states looking to insure themselves against future food shortages. And if you think that's just a reaction to last year's stunning spike in prices, think again. The new trend speaks to the impact global warming will have on where food will be produced in abundance in coming decades.

Continue reading Tom's 'The New Rules' column this week at WPR

Reader Comments (7)

Read the economist article this weekend and was about to forward it to you when I found your new article. Glad to see your still ahead of the game :)
June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Brooks
Tom,

I saw some of this in the new book as well. It raises one question, where do you get your global warming information? I am not convinced that anyone really knows what will happen with global warming, as all the models and all the scientists have to make some assumptions. I work in the Meteorology and Oceanography world supporting the Navy, and I know that we can't forecast weather or ocean conditions out past 48-72 hours without a lot of error, so why are you so sure about where the drought areas will be and what will happen in the global warming scenario?

Thanks for any insight and clarification,

Dean
June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDean Wakeham
Speaking of new rules and border-crossing food, I saw an article a couple weeks ago about Frito-Lay marketing their chips as 'locally grown'. Type in a product code from the bag and see which farm grew the potatos. If you can do it for potato chips at my 7-11, I'd guess you could do it for the Ohio corn which ends up in Mexico or Mali. No fancy implanted RFI, just low-tech chain-of-custody and traceability.
June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTEJ
Dean,I think what Tom might be referring to is the way the sun strikes the earth. Because of the earth's tilt, the sun strikes the earth most directly at 10 degrees N and S of the equator depending on the season. As climate changes, those areas will be most affected by increased greenhouse effect. That along with the intertropical convergence zone, reliance on the increasingly varied monsoon season, and a host of other factors will turn on the heat so to speak in the lower latitudes. (Feel free to correct me if I'm off track Tom)
June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Brooks
That is the basic idea.

The planet does not so much as warm up as it fails to cool down in ways similar to the recent past. In places with full seasons, that means longer and better growing seasons, in combination with higher C02 in the atmosphere.

Pretty basic thinking, which can always be wrong, but I trust it more than those by-the-inches predictions on ocean levels that change every time they run the model with a new variable (Oh, now we're tracking maybe 214 of the possible 4.2 million!).
June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTom Barnett
Interesting take on the climate change's impact on food production in Africa: http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE55202A20090603
June 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternotchris
I guess my issue with the article and the statements is that there are studies, which are based on climate change prediction models, all of which have a different outcome, and probably none of which will be right. I know that El Nino causes climatic change in places in the Americas, and the ability to predict an El Nino can be very valuable from the point of view of investing in say oranges in different parts of the world. We can't even predict when an El Nino will happen with much confidence, so how we can predict where the world will be in 50, 75, or 100 years seems pretty far fetched. I guess the Chinese are believers since they are buying up land in these areas though.

Nathan Lewis at CalTech came and spoke to my Executive MBA class at UCLA a couple of years ago. He had a really interesting perspective on climate change. Here is his link:

http://nsl.caltech.edu/energy.html
June 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDean Wakeham

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