From chocolate to home insurance, climate change is making life more

If chocolate is your pleasure, you’ve undoubtedly noticed it costs more these days to get your fill.

You can thank the scarcity of cocoa for that. The majority of it grows in West Africa, where drought and disease have severely reduced crop yields. As a result, the cost of cocoa has tripled in the last year, hitting $10,000 US a ton for the first time ever.

It’s proof of how global warming is hitting our pocketbooks, says Pascal Thériault, an agricultural economist at McGill University in Montreal.

The food system “relies on stability, and what climate change does is it creates situations where nothing is stable,” he said.

Most people have been touched by inflation in recent years, and there’s been animated debate about the prime source. Observers and pundits have blamed the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting government stimulus, low interest rates, low unemployment, even the carbon tax.

The higher cost of living is the result of a confluence of factors, but global warming is an underappreciated one, says Geoff McCarney, director of research for the Smart Prosperity Institute at the University of Ottawa.

WATCH | A calamitous cocoa harvest is making Easter more expensive: 

Poor cocoa harvests cause bitter price increase for Easter chocolate

Poor harvests of cocoa — the key ingredient in chocolate — have driven up prices of the raw material, and it’s showing up on store shelves this Easter.

Extreme weather events such as droughts or wildfires, made more frequent by our continued use of fossil fuels, are not only causing localized damage but are affecting crop yields, supply chains and the durability of housing, all of which is making life more expensive.

“There’s lots of evidence for Canada, U.S., and internationally that we’re just going to increasingly feel climate change in the cost of food, fibre and agricultural output, and energy demands will change, along with the effect of temperature on labour productivity,” said McCarney.

Pain in the grocery aisles

The cost of groceries has been a flashpoint in the last couple of years — politicians even summoned Canadian grocery executives to explain themselves in front of a parliamentary committee. The execs spent several days denying they were profiteering at a time of high inflation.

While the CEOs of certain food vendors, particularly in the U.S., have acknowledged doing so, some of the rising costs have to do with weather-stressed commodities.

Take olive oil, another victim of drought conditions — specifically in the Mediterranean Sea, where hot and dry weather last summer damaged olive groves, reducing the yield and sending the price of this kitchen staple ever upward. 

Drought is also partially responsible for the shortage of rice in Italy, which grows about half of Europe’s supply; similar problems have hampered growth in Asia. 

In India, rice crops were damaged by especially heavy monsoon rains, leading the country to halt exports of some varieties.

Two people walk through a rice field.
Farmers walk in a rice field…

Read More: From chocolate to home insurance, climate change is making life more

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