Climate Change Is Everywhere in the Story of a Mounting Global Food Crisis

Amid war in Ukraine, the potential for food shortages shows how climate change bridges issues and exacerbates other problems. Here’s how to include that in your story.

A wheat field near Uzhhorod in western Ukraine. (Photo by Serhii Hudak via Getty Images)

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Since Russia’s war in Ukraine began, there’s been much talk about the pursuant energy crisis and the world’s need for a clean-energy transition. Though the implications for climate change are significant, journalists have only sometimes spelled them out in their coverage. Now, there is another crisis emerging as a knock-on effect of the war: the potential for food shortages, which in turn could spark malnutrition, famine, and unrest around the world, especially in poorer countries. Climate change again plays prominently in this crisis, threading together issues of agriculture, trade, justice, and diplomacy. It’s a tangled web but, still, it’s critical that journalists step back to help audiences observe the big picture.

The short version of the food crisis story goes, simply, that interrupted food exports from Russia and Ukraine could have disastrous consequences for regions that are already food insecure due in part to climate change.

Many journalists have handled the war, food shortages, and climate change individually, or have linked just two of those three major issues. (A recent New York Times story, for example, broke down how the war might bring about food shortages, but didn’t mention climate.) Taken together, though, the situation is a powerful demonstration not just of war’s folly but of how climate change bridges many issues and exacerbates other problems.

The food crisis is also an opportunity to help educate audiences, whom studies show are increasingly interested in climate change (and climate coverage) but often still don’t grasp the enormity of the problem or the irrefutable necessity of solutions.

Read CCNow deputy director Andrew McCormick’s column in CJR…

From us

Climate Science 101. If you’re a journalist who needs an intro to climate science without getting too deep into the details, this guide, adapted from the work of renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, is for you. Read it.

Noteworthy stories

German energy plans. The newly elected German government is proposing clean energy legislation that would require nearly 100 percent of energy to be renewable by 2035. With about a third of its gas supply coming from Russia, the war in Ukraine has accelerated the country’s plans to phase out fossil fuels. By Dan Gearino at Inside Climate News…

Biden’s Budget. In a newly released budget plan, US president Joe Biden requested $11 billion to be designated as climate aid for poorer countries. A failure by Congress to deliver significant climate funding before COP27 later this year could further undermine US credibility at the next UN climate negotiations. By Maxine Joselow at the Washington Post…

Shelf life. An ice shelf in East Antarctica — a region thought to be more stable and less prone to climate change impacts — collapsed at the beginning of an off-the-charts warm spell in Antarctica last week, concerning scientists who believed this area was more protected from warming. From CBS News… 

Bad energy. Critics of a clean energy company are alleging that the firm targets eco-conscious consumers with the promise of delivering responsibly-sourced energy, then jacks up their rates. A spokesperson for the company denied the allegations. By Will Bredderman at The Daily Beast…

Efficiency. Energy conservation advocate Amory Lovins says efficiency is the cheapest, fastest, and safest way to address the energy and climate crises. Lovins argues for the mass insulation of buildings combined with an acceleration of renewables. By John Vidal for the Guardian…

Gulf of Maine. Chronicling how a devastatingly warm year has impacted an already tenuous ocean ecosystem and the surrounding community, this piece is a great example of local climate reporting connecting regional impacts to large-scale warming. By Colin Woodard at the Portland Press Herald…

Republication Recommendations

The following story deserves special consideration for republication by CCNow partners:

For partner outlets: To submit stories for sharing, please use this form. As always, instructions for republishing and the full list of stories available for republication can be found in our Sharing Library.

Odds & Ends

22 hours. That’s how much time corporate broadcast outlets spent covering climate change last year, representing a more than threefold increase from 2020, according to Media Matters’ annual assessment of broadcast TV’s climate coverage. They also wrote a companion piece on how newsrooms can make 2022 a better year for climate reporting. Read it here.

Report update. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will hold a press conference to launch the Working Group III contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report, focused on mitigation of climate change on April 4. Media registration for the session can be found here.

Partners. The Energy Mix hosted a panel including CCNow executive editor Anna Hiatt for a discussion on how to keep the climate story in the public eye, which is sure to benefit journalists. Read the piece on the event here.

Jobs. Grist is looking for a CEO. WBUR is hiring a climate & environment reporter. High Country News is still looking for editorial interns. Currently is looking for a PNW-based weather nerd with great writing skills.

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