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Robber barons and weather patterns

  • Written by  Tom Hart
  • Published in Climate
Robber barons and weather patterns Shutterstock
01 Nov
2014
When extreme weather hits a country, food shortages follow. A report by the University of Oxford examined four events and concluded that authorities in all those countries were unprepared for such extreme weather and, as a result, citizens suffered

The events studied were Russia during the 2010 heatwave; floods in Pakistan during the same year; the East African drought in 2010–2011; and the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

‘Extreme weather has always affected food security, particularly for the world’s poorest people’ said the study’s lead author Dr John Ingram. ‘We think of farmers or fishermen, but it affects many people in other ways too.’

In Russia, food was hoarded while speculators fixed prices resulting in a global rise in the price of wheat, which in turn led to political upheaval in the Middle East. Pakistan saw coercive landlords take advantage of smallholders affected by the floods. The cumulative result was an 80 per cent increase in wheat and rice prices in 2010.

Drought-affected people in East Africa did not receive food supplies for months due to armed gangs, while food prices hits all time highs in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. In the Philippines, people found an unprepared government overtaken by Typhoon Haiyan, which hit farmers and fishing communities hard.

‘While direct measures such as emergency preparedness and the strengthening of response institutions is helpful,’ said Ingram, ‘this study identifies a need for a wider cultural shift to ensure the most vulnerable are properly protected.’

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