What can countries, and our world become, if we nurture people’s reasoned agency and eliminate every unfreedom? A world where our institutions are re-imagined so we are better able to write new narratives about who we are, and the futures we treasure. Today, a world of worry enfolds humanity in chronic layers of interlaced uncertainties. Worries that paint a picture of “uncertain times and unsettled lives” according to Pedro Conceição, Director of the Human Development Report Office and lead author of the 2021-2022 UNDP Human Development Report (HDR).
Europe’s intense summer heatwave, which sparked wildfires in Spain, France and the UK, has alerted bureaucracies to factor the immediate and ancillary impacts of exceptionally high and rising temperatures into their resilience and vulnerability planning. To cope with surging electricity costs, ornamental lights that blush the Hotel de Ville, the Tour Saint-Jacques, and the Eiffel Tower will be switched off.
In France, consideration is being given to switching off 55,000 digital advertising screens and reducing heating in public buildings by one degree. The US government has embraced the green infrastructure opportunity that electrifying transport brings as something transformational. The US Senate passed a $1 trillion infrastructure Bill to build electric vehicle charging stations across America, expand broadband access, and improve cybersecurity.
The Bill includes thoughtful tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrency transactions to finance these initiatives. These commitments to the future are unsettling. But necessary. Already we live in the world where torrents from melting glaciers dissolve mud huts into new landscapes of water, and a coronavirus pandemic has become more a driver of reversals than a portal.
By 2045, heat stress will put about seventy per cent of the world’s current food production at risk. Once emissions remain unchecked and countries revert to coal, temperatures will not plateau. Extreme heat-related disruptions to global food supply chains will be widespread.
Scrutinizing the horizon into 2045 shows that the outlook is bleak, with heat stress set to pose an extreme risk to agriculture in thirty per cent of countries. Ghana, the world’s second-largest producer of cocoa, Togo and the Central African Republic are expected to be among those most affected. Once agriculture reaches a boiling point, food prices will not drop, economies will be strained, and millions will be pushed towards conditions of scarcity.
Amidst all of these unsettling events and uncertainties, prices of raw materials that make up the crop nutrient commodity market — potash, urea, nitrates, ammonia, nitrogen, phosphates, and sulphates have risen thirty per cent since the start of 2022. In October 2020, Nora Urea traded at US$120 per US ton. In March 2022, it was trading at US$880 a US ton. A three hundred per cent increase since events on 24 February in Eastern Europe.
Russia and Belarus are the world’s second — and third-largest producers of potash, the main component for manufacturing nitrogen-containing fertilizers, after Canada. In 2021, Beijing tightened controls on the exports of fertilizers, primarily nitrogen and phosphates. The uncertainty of supply from Eastern Europe has forced Canada’s Nutrien Ltd., the world’s largest manufacturer of fertilizer, to increase potash output to about 15M tonnes in 2022. Agriculture now faces the volatilities of the crop nutrient market and the uncertainties of the climate crisis.
From Asia to Europe, the climate crisis has stoked heat spells and floods during 2022. Extreme climate has directly impacted crop harvests. India was responsible for twelve per cent of global food production in 2020 but is now by far the largest agricultural producer rated as susceptible to “extreme risk” for heat stress in the current scenario. Oman, Eritrea, Djibouti, Bangladesh, South Sudan, and UAE, have higher risk profiles according to Verisk Maplecroft. The Heat Stress (Current Climate) and Heat Stress (Future Climate) Indices use global temperature data that is extracted from the UK Met Office Hadley Centre Earth System Model (HadGEM2-ES).
According to Verisk Maplecroft, agriculture ranks highest for both current and future heat stress risks on its new Industry Risk Analytics dataset, which assesses fifty-one distinct risks for one hundred and ninety-eight countries across eighty industries. The data reveals that heat stress now poses an extreme risk to agronomy in twenty countries. That count climbs to sixty-four under imminent climate conditions, according to an RCP8.5 worst-case high emissions scenario, modelling 2°C of warming above pre-industrial intensities by mid-century.
This will impact nations that account for seventy-one per cent of global food production today, with cocoa, rice and tomatoes set to be the worst affected. The United States, the world’s top agricultural exporter, and China, the world’s largest agricultural producer, are both exposed to extreme risk for heat stress by 2045, according to Verisk Maplecroft.
Global agriculture food supply chains are already reeling from the impacts of floods, droughts, wildfires, soaring prices of crop nutrient ingredients, and events in eastern Europe. And while climate change singes global food supply chains, the future will be shaped by interacting uncertainties that will unsettle lives. Pedro Conceição states that “The variation in opportunity and outcome among and within nations is mirrored by—and interacts with—the volatility that people experience in their lives”, (p.3).