Written by Pooran Desai OBE

The invasion of Ukraine came as a shock to most of us. In a world already being destabilised by climate change, and with Ukraine being one of the world’s five most important grain-producing areas, should we be worried about other possible consequences?

Many of us thought that actions such as invasions could not happen this century, especially not in Europe. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, even the prospect of nuclear war is back on the table. Though hopefully checks, balances and good sense will prevail. 

Should we be concerned about other possible consequences? 

In short, yes. For example, might war in Ukraine affect food production? A significant decrease in one or more of the world’s five breadbaskets impacts global food prices and rising food prices trigger political unrest.  One example was in 2010, when global grain production dropped due to flooding in Canada and drought in Northern Europe, Russia and the Ukraine. This sparked social unrest particularly in the Middle East and helped precipitate the Arab Spring.  

A report by McKinsey in 2019 examined the possibility of harvest failures in grain-producing areas – particularly ‘multi-breadbasket failures’.  They conclude that climate change is increasing the risk which will double by 2030.

War is bad enough. In a deeply interconnected and interdependent world the consequences are far reaching.  But in a world which is also approaching, if not crossing, climate tipping points where the consequences could reach far further than we might first imagine.