Jul 26, 2021 - Energy & Environment

How extreme weather feeds inflation

Animated illustration of a thermometer in the shape of a dollar bill sign, with temperature rising rapidly
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

This summer's extreme weather is having ripple effects that could raise food prices in the U.S. and disrupt diets around the world.

Why it matters: Climate scientists and food supply experts, like those at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, have long warned about the impact of human-caused global warming on prices, food shortages and hunger.

Driving the news: Sugar, pinto beans and flour prices are all trending up due to dry conditions in the West.

  • Coffee hit the highest prices seen in over six years due to ongoing frost and drought during the Brazilian winter, Reuters reports.
  • Drought in Canada and the Northwestern U.S. pushed spring wheat crops to the highest point in over eight years, Bloomberg reports.

What they're saying: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday that climate change and conflict are "both consequences and drivers" of poverty, income inequality and food prices.

  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged calm in an interview with Bloomberg, saying the food inflation rate "is not that much higher" than normal and will moderate.

Between the lines: It's difficult to separate extreme weather's effect on food supplies versus changes that can be traced to climate, Axios' Bryan Walsh notes. And some sharp food price increases can be attributed to economic disruption caused by the pandemic.

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