The Stream, July 17: Extreme Weather Could Put Global Food Supply At Risk, Study Finds

The Global Rundown

Extreme droughts, heat waves, and floods could simultaneously put staple crops at risk in the world’s top producers, according to new research. The World Health Organization warned that the cholera outbreak in Yemen threatens the upcoming hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. A severe drought in southern Europe is destroying crops in Spain and Italy. Extensive flooding in Illinois may put thousands of buildings at risk near Chicago. Water managers in the Netherlands say the country is leading the global shift to reduce flood effects by accommodating rivers.

“At the moment, we are in a transition. We had a strong belief that we could predict and control nature, and we’re moving now into a period where we acknowledge that we cannot control nature. We have to deal with uncertainties in terms of climate change and socioeconomic development.” –Chris Zevenbergen, a professor at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands, commenting on the country’s shift toward managing flood risks by making more room for rivers. (PRI)

In context: While South Carolina floods, U.S. wrestles with urban stormwater.

By The Numbers

60 to 70 percent Estimated crop losses in Spain’s Castile and Leon grain-growing region, where a drought could cut cereal production to its lowest level in 20 years. The drought is also affecting crops in Italy, and could cause olive oil production to drop 60 percent. Reuters

5,800 structures Number that may be flooded in Lake County, Illinois, one of three counties near Chicago that were declared a disaster area by the state’s governor following heavy rainfall in the region. Reuters

Science, Studies, And Reports

There is a 6 percent chance every decade that droughts, heat waves, floods, and other extreme weather events could cause corn crops in both the United States and China to fail at the same time, according to a study by researchers at the United Kingdom’s Met Office. Such an event in two of the world’s top producers would unsettle food security at a global scale, they found, raising the risk of famine. Guardian

On The Radar

The extensive cholera outbreak in Yemen could pose a “serious risk” to the millions of people making the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, according to the World Health Organization. Officials with the organization, however, said Saudi Arabia had done well to prevent outbreaks in the past by ensuring access to water and sanitary conditions. Reuters