Disparate events in the late summer and fall of 2022 represent the expression of our collective futures shaped by the global dynamics being unleashed by the consequences of climate change.

The enormous stresses placed upon the global system are expressed most clearly by Pakistan. Heavier than usual monsoon rains and melting glaciers following a severe heat wave left a third of the country under water. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif calls for climate justice through aid from rich polluting countries overwhelmingly responsible for climate change. In Africa, five million face starvation as a consequence of drought, war and civil unrest. The situation in Somalia, Northeastern Nigeria and South Sudan are dire. In the Arab world, Yemen faces famine.

One of the global consequences of floods, drought and civil unrest is the mass migration of the desperate. This is in addition to the millions of Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s war and now hundreds of thousands of Russian men fleeing Putin's draft.

These global forces driven by climate change shape the politics of the rich nations as well as the poor. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ stunt of flying refugees from Venezuela seeking asylum in the U.S. to Martha’s Vineyard resort island was an embarrassment for the aspiring Trump replacement. This was followed by catastrophic hurricane Ian thrashing Florida after which Governor DeSantis accused the media, a favorite target, of wanting Tampa to be hit by the storm.

Georgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party wins the parliamentary election as she also plays the anti-immigrant card. Meanwhile, debate rages. Is she a right-wing populist or a fascist? Vladimir Putin doubles down on his Ukraine war, “annexing” provinces, mobilizing the unwilling and threatening the use of nuclear weapons as his army is in retreat. Putin practices mass murder with impunity while using Russian energy as a weapon from his petrol kleptocracy. It’s important to understand Putin’s war to make Ukraine part of a Russian empire has much do to with his plan on seizing the enormously productive Ukrainian farmland. Ukraine was the 7th largest global wheat producer and 5th largest exporter1. It was the Ukrainian agricultural prize and Black Sea port that drove Putin’s play, not fear of Nato’s advancement.

The shape of things to come

The events of recent months make several things clear.

First, the consequences of climate change are borne most heavily by the poor and by poor nations.

Second, the future holds the prospect, if we do not tackle climate change and practice climate justice, that we will see conflict leading to wars for farmland and for water and the rise of anti-immigrant politics tending to the authoritarian and fascist in inclination. This is a world of border walls, border fences, armed guards and minefields and eventually the throttling and then collapse of international trade by fortress nations.

Third, there is no exemption for anyone from the worsening consequences of climate change. Concerted global action must be taken by the leading polluting nations to slash global carbon emissions quickly by 2030, led by the United States and China and the other OECD industrialized nations. In 2021, the US raised its Paris climate pledge, committing to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030. The 2022 IRA based by the U.S. Congress 2022 offers real hope.

What is necessary is cooperation by all industrial nations facing catastrophic consequences if we do not declare a climate emergency and act boldly. If we do not, and the global temperature continues to increase, eventually the consequences will include crop failure in key global grain and rice areas leading to mass famine and collapse.

There is a calculus of climate consequences and agriculture that worsens as global temperature rises. For example, the World Resources Institute estimated in 2022 that costs for climate adaptation and damage to major crops globally would mean $63 billion with a 1.5°C increase in temperature, $80 billion with a 2°C scenario, and $128 billion under a 3°C scenario. At some point, the consequences are collapse and not just dollars.

Dr. Suhas P. Wani former Director of the ICRISAT Development Center warns that 7 billion people will be affected by water scarcity2. In India he sees the monsoon season getting shorter reducing farm productivity. In 2021, drought in California led to a loss of 8,745 jobs and $1.2 billion in direct costs by leaving farmland fallow as a result of water shortages and increased pumping of groundwater from wells.

The conclusions of the 2022 IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability3 on the multiple and severe consequences on global food production above 1.5o C is clear:

Concurrent and repeated climate hazards occur in all regions, increasing impacts and risks to health, ecosystems, infrastructure, livelihoods and food (high confidence). Multiple risks interact, generating new sources of vulnerability to climate hazards, and compounding overall risk (high confidence). Increasing concurrence of heat and drought events are causing crop production losses and tree mortality (high confidence). Above 1.5°C global warming increasing concurrent climate extremes will increase risk of simultaneous crop losses of maize in major food-producing regions, with this risk increasing further with higher global warming levels ... Risks to food safety from climate change will further compound the risks to health by increasing food contamination of crops from mycotoxins and contamination of seafood from harmful algal blooms, mycotoxins, and chemical contaminants (high confidence.

There is a wide range of sustainable agriculture methods and adaptations that farmers can employ to grow and breed heat-tolerant crops, reduce water waste and use sustainable agricultural methods. Crucially they can sequester large amounts of carbon in crops and soil building which should include monetizing the value of carbon sequestration that is a key counterpart to reductions in carbon emissions and focus on agricultural economics.

The degree of carbon sequestration and removal must match the level of emissions reduction. That’s crucial for our ability to return the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels, beneath 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Carbon sequestration on land and sea has so far been a neglected part of sustainability planning. That is a fundamental error.

In the same fashion that increasing efficiency by orders of magnitude can be a cost-effective means of reducing carbon emissions, large-scale carbon sequestration cries out to be pursued and monetized. This will make agricultural markets work as a key part of our sustainability goals. Sequestering a ton of carbon dioxide should have the same value as displacing a ton of carbon dioxide by renewables now valued above $150 dollars per metric ton. Global markets will fail if they do not send real price signals that encourage the pursuit of sustainability. Otherwise, they will continue to function as self-destructive externality machines courting irreversible damage.

Next steps

We find ourselves at a crucial juncture. One road leads to an accelerated worsening of the climate crisis, of heat waves, droughts, superstorms, failed harvests and new waves of climate refugees. This is a recipe for the rise of global nativism and anti-democratic demagogues, wars for cropland and water.

The other road leads to a global pursuit of sustainability, social and climate justice and a global convergence on sustainable goals for all the world’s people. Building a sustainable and just global civilization is the path toward emerging from the threat of climate disaster and crafting a richer, more peaceful and more just world. This is the optimal path for the sustainable conduct of global markets and democratic systems.

It is a tragic and sad delusion if we think that we can successfully live in a world divided between suffering impoverished billions and a minority in the rich industrialized world adapting to a degree to an increasingly afflicted and ever-worsening new climate and socially normal.

It’s time for the industrialized nations of the world, led by China and the United States to take the lead in pursuit of global sustainability and social and climate justice. It’s the most important decision facing humanity. At stake is both the future of our civilization and the ecosphere. Perhaps it will take desperate millions in the street to help move governments to face reality.

For the U.S. and China, it’s time to lead globally and not stumble toward disaster.


1 Ukraine Agricultural Production and Trade.
2 Dr. Suhas P. Wani former Director of ICRISAT Development Center.
3 Summary for policy makers..
4 Transforming our tax system for economic growth and ecological improvement, Roy Morrison, December 2021 The pursuit of an ecological future: is there another way?