In many parts of the world the impact of climate change is very real. Its effects include drought, which often has dramatic consequences for the production of food.
If food is produced locally, it may be that crops are failing more regularly, or that livestock cannot survive. Farmers may not be able to access fertilisers or other necessities. Consumers with high dependence on specific suppies and suppliers may not be able to switch to alternative sources.
On this page I'm going to look at examples of how drought caused by the changing climate is having devastating consequences.
Drought in the Horn of Africa
According to the United Nations nearly 26 million people in the Horn of Africa are facing extreme hunger, with some areas already reaching catastrophic famine levels. A food crisis threatens a record number of people around the world, with nearly 345 million at acute levels of hunger and nearly 50 million people on the brink of famine. According to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres “We are on the way to a raging food catastrophe”.
This article describes the situation in the Horn of Africa, where a climate change-induced drought is exposing cracks in the global food system and pushing humanitarian aid to breaking point.
Bringing a Colorado River dam to its knees
For the millions of people who depend on Glen Canyon Dam for electricity, drinking water and irrigation of crops, two decades of drought have brought a reckoning.
The Colorado River is shrinking at the hands of climate change. About 23 years of drought have reduced its water supply, and policymakers in the seven states that share the river have failed to agree on a plan to significantly reduce demand. That means record-low water levels in the nation’s second-largest reservoir—Lake Powell—which is held back by the Glen Canyon Dam.
At just 24 percent of its total capacity, Lake Powell barely has enough water to keep hydroelectric turbines spinning. Electricity output has already decreased, and further drops would take the level below the hydroelectric intake and allow air pockets into the turbines. At that point, running the generators could cause irreparable damage.
As explained in this article, crops still grow in most places because water management agencies keep delivering water, but finite supplies are being stretched across growing populations.
And although many aspects of the Glen Canyon Dam are controversial as explained here, it does "make it possible for millions of people to live and grow food in the arid Southwest".
April 2023: More Than a Decade of Megadrought Brought a Summer of Megafires to Chile
This article describes the ways in which drought is affecting many Chileans' lives, including those of subsistence farmers whose wells are drying up.
The south of Chile is cool and wet. The far north has the driest non-polar desert on earth. Both are experiencing megadroughts.
Fabrice Lambert of the Centre for Climate & Resilience Science said “Two-thirds of the drought is because of the climate crisis ... the other third is because of human mismanagement of water."