Food Supply Fears Spark China's Intercontinental Land Grab

A farmer in China spreads pesticide on her crops. Image: IFPRI via FlickrA farmer in China spreads pesticide on her crops. Image: IFPRI via Flickr

With the impacts of climate change threatening food supply as population grows, China is buying land on other continents to grow more crops.

China is protecting itself against future food supply problems caused by climate change by buying or leasing large tracts of land in Africa and South America, a leading UK climate scientist says.

Professor Peter Wadhams, an expert on the disappearing Arctic ice, says that while countries in North America and Europe are ignoring the threat that changing weather patterns are causing to the world food supply, China is taking “self-protective action”.

He says that changes in the jet stream caused by the melting of the ice in the Arctic are threatening the most productive agricultural areas on the planet.

“The impact of extreme, often violent weather on crops in a world where the population continues to increase rapidly can only be disastrous,” he warns.

“Sooner or later, there will be an unbridgeable gulf between global food needs and our capacity to grow food in an unstable climate. Inevitably, starvation will reduce the world’s population.”

Protect food supply

Professor Wadhams, former head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge, says China has already realised this is a threat to its future stability and has been taking over large areas of land in other countries to grow crops to protect its food supply.

The drawback, he says, is that the Chinese are introducing industrial agricultural practices that damage the soil, the water supply and the rivers.

“But China is positioning itself for the struggle to come − the struggle to find enough to eat,” he says. “By controlling land in other countries, they will control those countries’ food supply.”

Professor Wadhams, who is a former director of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, is the UK’s most experienced sea ice expert.

In his new book, A Farewell to Ice, he describes a number of serious threats to the planet resulting from the loss of Arctic ice. These include much greater sea level rise than estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), resulting in the flooding of cities and of low-lying deltas where much of the world’s food is grown.

“China is positioning itself for the struggle to come − the struggle to find enough to eat”

He says China has seen the unrest in parts of the world caused by food price increases in 2011 during the Arab Spring, and has sought to guard against similar problems at home by buying land across the globe.

His warnings are echoed in Brazil, where there are concerns about Chinese plans to build a 3,300-mile (5,000km) railway to get soya, grain and timber to the coast to supply China’s needs.

But fears over land grabs by China are only a small part of the changing world that will be created by the loss of ice in the Arctic discussed by Wadhams in his book.

He attacks the last four British prime ministers − John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron − for talking about climate change and doing little. And he says his fellow scientists on the IPCC are failing in their duty to speak out about the full dangers of climate change.

Professor Wadhams told Climate News Network that colleagues “were too frightened of their jobs or losing their grants to spell out what was really happening”. He said it makes him very angry that they are failing in their duty through timidity.

Based on his own measurements and calculations, he believes that summer ice in the Arctic will disappear before 2020 – which is 30 years before the IPCC estimate. He also believes that sea level rise has been badly underestimated because the loss of ice from Greenland and the Antarctic was not included in the IPCC’s estimates.

“My estimates are based on real measurements of the ice in the Arctic – the IPCC rely on computer simulations. I know which I believe.”

He is also concerned about the large escapes of methane from the Arctic tundra and the shallow seas north of Siberia – again, something that has not been fully taken into account in the IPCC’s calculations on the speed of warming.

Bordering on dishonest

“They know it is happening, but they do not want to frighten the horses [alarm people]. It is bordering on the dishonest,” he says.

Professor Wadhams has concluded that there is now so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that dangerous warming is inevitable unless more drastic action is taken. He says reducing emissions will help, along with planting forests, but it will never be enough.

“What is needed is something that has not been invented yet − a large-scale method of passing air through a machine and taking out the carbon dioxide,” he says.

“In the long run, only by taking carbon out of the air can we hope to get the concentrations down enough to save us from dangerous climate change.

“It is a tall order, but if we spend enough money on research we can find a way. Our future depends on it.” – Climate News Network

About The Author

brown paulPaul Brown is the joint editor of Climate News Network. He is a former environment correspondent of the Guardian and also writes books and teaches journalism. He can be reached at [email protected]


Recommended Book:

Global Warning: The Last Chance for Change
by Paul Brown.

Global Warning: The Last Chance for Change by Paul Brown.Global Warning is an authoritative and visually stunning book

English Afrikaans Arabic Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Dutch Filipino French German Hindi Indonesian Italian Japanese Korean Malay Persian Portuguese Russian Spanish Swahili Swedish Thai Turkish Urdu Vietnamese

LATEST VIDEOS

Jay Inslee Tells Hayes That He Wants To Gut The Filibuster To Fight Climate Change
by MSNBC
Washington Governor Jay Inslee is running for president on the single issue of climate change and argues that doing…
Causes and Effects of Climate Change
by National Geographic
What causes climate change (also known as global warming)? And what are the effects of climate change? Learn the human…
Extreme Weather and Global Warming
by NASA Goddard
Is the frequency of extreme weather events a sign that global warming is gaining pace and exceeding predictions? Bill…
Thanks to Climate Change, Wet Winters No Match for Drier California Summers
by KPIX CBS SF Bay Area
If the emerald-green hills around Northern California have you thinking recent rains have put a damper on the fire…
Climate Change Is Not One Issue
by MSNBC
"Climate change is not one issue," said David Wallace-Wells, author of "The Uninhabitable Earth," but is…
The Heat: Climate change
by CGTN America
Images gathered by NASA show an increase in foliage in China and India. The greening effect is mainly due to ambitious…
No company is doing enough to combat climate change: Jeremy Grantham
by CNBC Television
Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO, on climate change and what needs to be done to combat it.
Power Plants Are POISONING Groundwater All Over America
by The Ring of Fire
According to a new report, 90% of coal-fired power plants across the country have completely contaminated the…

LATEST ARTICLES

Default Image
Come on, UK weather forecasters – tell it like it is on climate change
by Adam Corner
They have a national reach that most climate campaigners would die for. They are familiar and respected experts on the…
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
by David Roberts
One of the elements of the Green New Deal resolution that has caused the most consternation among critics on the right…
Default Image
UK environmentalists target Barclays in fossil fuels campaign
by Matthew Taylor
A UK-wide campaign is being launched to persuade one of the country’s biggest high street banks to stop investing…
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
by Tim Radford
What does oceanic carbon uptake achieve? Greenhouse gas that sinks below the waves slows global warming a little and…
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
by Global Warming & Climate Change
“Climate change plus growth equals an existential threat,” Mr. Bevan said. To avoid severe water shortages, he added,…
Default Image
Record high US temperatures outpace record lows two to one, study finds
by Associated Press
Over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to sweat through record-breaking heat rather than shiver…
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
by BBC News - Science & Environment
Image copyright PA Image caption Low water levels at Wayoh Reservoir near Bolton in the UK heatwave in July 2018 Within…
Default Image
Why you'll never meet a white supremacist who cares about climate change
by Rebecca Solnit
As the news of the Christchurch mosque massacre broke and I scoured the news, I came across a map showing that the…