The Corner

The Climate for Arab Revolution

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? A major cause of the revolutionary fervor sweeping the Arab world, according to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, is catastrophic climate change caused by human beings. The causal link is famine, say the authors of the piece: “Could hunger, and the threat to power that accompanies it, be what finally forces political leaders to act” against greenhouse-gas emissions?

The authors get one important thing right: Rising food prices and shortages have helped drive many long-disenchanted residents of Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Algeria to convert their disenchantment into rage, and then into street protest. There is clearly an economic component to a movement that also includes desires for political and social reform. Remember that the Tunisian revolution was set off by the self-immolation of a young man who couldn’t find work, began selling produce to hungry neighbors, and then had his produce cart seized for failing to pay the required bribes.

It is also true, as Businessweek reports, that monetary inflation exported by Western central banks isn’t the only reason for rising food prices. Recent natural disasters — droughts, floods, and fires — have plagued grain-growing regions of Eurasia, Australia, the Americas, and Africa. The leap was to blame these disasters on human-induced climate change. There remain far too many unknowns in global climate and weather patterns to take such a leap. Any theory that purports to explain both droughts and floods, depending on local circumstance, is subject to the problem of non-falsification; it starts to look more like a product of stubborn faith than empirical science.

There’s more on the subject here, here, and here.

John Hood is a syndicated columnist and the president of the John William Pope Foundation, a North Carolina–based grantmaker.

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