The Disaster Most Likely to Cause Global Famine Is Not an Earthquake, Storm, Tsunami, or Flood

The world has faced down some incredibly large-scale natural disasters lately—and the wreckage they left in their wake has been considerable. But the one that is most threatening to our food supply is a natural disaster that has been unfolding very slowly.

The FAO recently took a look at the toll natural disasters have taken on the ability of the world to feed itself. Earthquakes, powerful storms, tsunamis, and floods all took their turn at causing food-supply havoc—but the biggest, by far, has been a quieter one: Drought.


It’s not just a drop in the total amount of food available that’s at risk, though; there’s also a subtler change that could take place.

A further breakdown of foods by type showed that the hammer of natural disasters falls very unequally, depending on which part of the farm market you’re looking at:


Drought, so far the source of the most loss, has knocked down the livestock and crop markets particularly hard. Fisheries and forests have, for obvious reasons, taken less of a hit.

So what does this mean for the future? Simply that as we adjust to a future featuring a continuing sweep of natural disasters, it’s not only a lessening in the total amount of food we’ll have to face. It will also be a shift in the types of food available at all.


Images: Charts / FAO; Thailand flood satellite images / NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

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