Global climate change causes climatic events such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, and heat waves to occur more frequently and with greater severity. In addition to inflicting direct harms, climatic events disrupt the flow of commerce and natural resources, creating shortages of goods and services, sometimes temporarily, sometimes not. Climate change is getting worse, so climatic events will escalate over time, and as events cumulate, there is the potential for multiple events to heap harm on top of harm, exponentially increasing misery and disruption. What looms is the prospect of shortages of basic life necessities.
A vast literature on food and water insecurity now documents droughts and crop failures creating dire shortages in lesser developed places in the world. But this atomistic literature largely treats destructive climatic events as singular, episodic tragedies, not a gathering storm that cripples the ability of whole countries to feed or care for themselves. This literature also fails to extrapolate: a worsening trajectory of climatic changes will cause insecurity to spill over into previously secure populations. In a climate-changed future, large parts of even wealthy countries will experience climate insecurity. Vulnerable populations in the United States have always had to face insecurity on many levels, and their hardship will be less bearable in the future, and more often fatal. But previously secure populations now face jeopardy as well.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, efforts to adapt to an already-changing climate must redouble. This article argues that in particular, adaptation efforts must ensure broad access to life necessities. Not only must some measures be undertaken to augment supply, but directly aiding vulnerable populations – including those newly vulnerable in a climate-changed world – will be most effective by framing adaptation within existing markets. This article proposes market-oriented measures to alleviate climate insecurity. These measures must be undertaken now, because once prolonged shortages become endemic, it will be difficult to set right the markets and distribution networks that are so vital to ensuring supply.
Shi-Ling Hsu, Climate Insecurity, 2023 ULR 197 (2023). https://doi.org/10.26054/0d-656s-mtrp