June 26, 2022 - 9:00 pm
There are millions of starving people in the world. That isn’t because of inadequate global food production.
Hunger is a major concern in many places. A report from the World Food Programme finds there are 49 million people in 46 countries facing famine or faminelike conditions. Another 276 million people are dealing with “acute food insecurity.” That could increase by around 50 million due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
This is a humanitarian crisis. Some may think this stems directly from global warming. After all, its popular to claim that rising temperatures are an existential threat to humanity. Alarmists frequently say rising temperatures will affect the food supply. They also link all manner of natural disasters, like heat waves, droughts, floods and hurricanes, to global warming. Never mind that events like that have happened throughout recorded history.
Other put the blame on overpopulation.
Decades ago, environmental Chicken Littles explicitly warned that overpopulation would lead to mass starvation. That was the theme of biologist Paul Ehrlich’s bestselling book, “The Population Bomb.”
“The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” he wrote in his book. “In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”
That didn’t happen. When he wrote his book in 1968, the world’s population was around 3.7 billion people. Today, it’s more than double, topping 7.9 billion.
Technological innovations led to a dramatic increase in the food supply. As Ronald Bailey at reason.com notes, corn production around the world has doubled since 2001. Wheat is up by a third. Rice has seen an increase of nearly 30 percent. Over that same time, the world’s population grew by a quarter.
Unfortunately, technology isn’t a cure-all for what’s causing food scarcity — human choices.
“As of today, the world has no global shortage of food, but food is quite expensive and people’s wages have not adjusted yet,” David Laborde, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said recently. “The main issue is that we have problems moving this food around, either due to the war or export restrictions.”
The World Food Programme agrees. “Conflict is still the biggest driver of hunger, with 60 percent of the world’s hungry living in areas afflicted by war and violence,” it states on its website.
Any successful effort to solve the world’s hunger crisis must start with understanding its cause.