The heat is unbearable. Droughts that are crippling. Frost is crippling. Extreme weather is causing havoc for farmers all over the world, as well as increasing the cost of food for Americans.
Arabica coffee futures have nearly doubled to seven-year highs in the last year as Brazil battles frost damage that has wiped out crops. Coffee prices in stores will almost certainly follow suit.
Sugar prices are also rising, owing to a combination of frost in Brazil and dry weather in the Dakotas and Red River Valley. Wheat, one of the most commonly consumed foods, has risen to its highest level in nearly eight years as a result of rising temperatures and droughts.
Extreme weather, much of it caused by the climate crisis, is having a real-world impact on Americans, as evidenced by the food price spikes. Climate scientists warn that the consequences will only get worse from here.
Cynthia Rosenzweig, adjunct senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, told CNN Business that “climate change is coming right into our dining room tables.”
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, global food prices have risen by 31% in the last year. Extreme weather-related supply shortages are one of several factors contributing to this food inflation.
“There’s no denying that weather patterns are having an impact on our food supply,” Jennifer Bartashus, a senior analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence who covers retail staples and packaged food, said.
Agriculture price booms are nothing new to Robert Yawger, a 35-year commodities industry veteran. But, unlike previous booms, this one isn’t being fueled by traditional factors like demand from emerging markets or a weak US dollar.
“In the past, it wasn’t that there was a climate catastrophe rallying everything at once,” said Yawger, executive director of energy futures at Mizuho Securities. “I’ve never seen anything like this — where everything is bid to the moon at the same time.”
According to Swiss Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company, severe weather events contributed to natural catastrophe losses of $40 billion in the first half of 2021 alone. This is the second-highest total ever recorded.
Of course, the climate crisis is not to blame for all extreme weather.
According to Rosenzweig, a Columbia professor who is also a senior research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, La Nina could be the cause of some shifting weather patterns.
Food price increases can be caused by a variety of factors, some of which have nothing to do with climate change.
For example, some food inflation is caused by a labor shortage, particularly in the agricultural sector, as a result of the pandemic and the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown. Transportation costs are also high due to high oil prices and a truck driver shortage. Not to mention the increased packaging costs.
According to government statistics released Wednesday, consumer prices increased by 5.4 percent in the 12 months ending in July. This is the quickest annual price increase since 2008.
For the second month in a row, producer prices rose even faster in July, setting a new high.
“I’ve been in the industry for 38 years and this is the highest we’ve ever seen inflation go up in our company,” said Orlando Olave, senior director of operations at New York supermarket Morton Williams. “It’s incredible how many things are going up now.”
According to the UN food agency, wheat prices are rising due to “concerns over dry weather and crop conditions in North America.” Droughts in Canada and the Northwestern United States, in particular, have wiped out wheat crops.