If you want to be really scared out of your wits by an apocalyptic food shortage scenario, you don't need to rent a copy of "Soylent Green." Instead, check out this nightmare scenario envisioned in a just-issued report from global insurance giant Lloyd's of London.
The document, created by experts in food security and sustainable development economics and vetted by an outside panel of academics, explains how it would only take three weather disasters in close succession to throw humanity's food supply into chaos.
The result would be a brutal rise in prices for commodities such as corn, soybeans, wheat and rice, and a plunge in the financial markets.
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It's a disaster for which we're largely unprepared, the insurer warns. "Little work has been done to explore the global food system's growing vulnerability to acute disruption," the company said in an accompanying press release.
In the scenario, our planet is hit with wind-blown wheat rust in Russia; a heat wave in South America; and an especially strong warm phase from the El Niño Southern Oscillation cycle. The resulting damage to agricultural production would quadruple the cost of important food commodities.
Agriculture is the world's most important industry, employing 40 percent of the world's population, the Lloyd's report noted. So disrupting it could lead to a major economic shock. The resulting hit would cause European stock markets to lose 10 percent of their value, and wipe out 5 percent of the value of U.S. companies as well.
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Meanwhile, food shortages would have the potential to cause riots in urban areas across the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America, and lead to wider political instability, the report concluded.
Experts actually have been sounding the alarm about a nutritional apocalypse for a while. Back in 2009, Earth Policy Institute founder Lester Brown warned in this Scientific American article that chronic woes such as water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from climate change threatened to cause a food crisis that could lead to civilization's collapse.
Another just-released modeling scenario by researchers at the UK's Anglia Ruskin University predicts that such a global collapse could occur by 2040, unless governments change their policies, according to the Guardian.