You know thing are bad when the UN calls for Capitalism. Ban Ki Moon called for the end to tariffs, protectionism, and trade barriers in face of mounting food inflation:
“We simply cannot afford to fail,” the UN secretary general told a news conference at the UN Food and Agriculture (FAO) summit on food security. “Hundreds of millions of people expect no less.”
That’s understatement. Millions are hungry right now, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The sustained high energy prices the past few years have caught up to food production, and while the lowering of trade barriers will help the problem of “food inflation” quite a bit, lowering barriers alone will not stop the steady creep of hunger and poverty. It takes high energy to farm abundantly and cleanly; a point which is easily proven.
In the latter quarter of the last century the world overcame hunger pretty much everywhere, and many countries leapt out of the ditch of third world poverty. This was during a sweet period of abundant energy and low price in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars. Few knew or really noticed how good we really had it, embroiled as they were in the petite political spats of the moment. We must get back to that sweet spot soon if we do not want to see bread lines and food riots as a normal daily occurrence around the world.
As the problem worsens governments will fall, regions will destabilize, and death will stalk many lands. It’s pretty grim reality, the math is not hard and the outcomes don’t take computer models to imagine.
If we want abundant food we must have abundant cheap energy, and if we want clean air then it must be clean energy as well. We cannot afford to wait any longer in developing it either.
Now while you are chewing that over, think in terms of goals, and which goal is most important: reducing carbon, or reducing hunger? If we fail in either goal, which creates the grimmest future: Global Warming or Global Hunger? Now you should ask which goal gets more press, more support, more funding, and more time at the UN? The UN has failed in mission number one by paying attention to neo-luddite environmental fantasies and politically whoring after every thug dictator in all the years since Carter’s Presidency – all this sound and fury over the IPCC report while millions get set to starve.
This isn’t a popular theme with other bloggers and journalists, and I don’t expect it to become one anytime soon. It’s not topical, and where it’s political it has potential to gore everyone’s oxen – not just one side’s. It goes against the myopic conventional wisdom that less energy is somehow better for the world, that less wealth is a good thing, and that plants, insects, and assorted varieties of flora and fauna are more important than people.
The trend line for hunger gets worse if we do not do something immediate. The new estimates are that we must double food production by 2030 or face incredibly mounting hunger worldwide, and that’s during your children’s lifetimes. It’s just around the corner.
The real point is that with abundant cheap energy we really can have it all. Wealth and energy are immutably married, and any future where there is less rather than more energy becomes grim indeed. The environment becomes more despoiled, political instability becomes the norm, hunger and poverty stalk the lands.
There’s no hyperbole here – these are just the facts, and hunger is something that needn’t happen. The answer to hunger question is, was, and will always be abundant energy.
UPDATE: More on the balance with Biofuels. I’ve been having this debate with the Biomass proponents since the early ’90’s in alt.sci.energy on the Usenet and other places. Biomass has a niche, but it’s very limited and in the end nuclear power coupled with hydrogen or electric cars is much cleaner.