Algae and Food Security with Climate Change

by Dr. Mark Edwards

Climate change threatens food security and amplifies the risk of war.
“The threat from climate changes is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing, as more frequent droughts and crop failures breed hunger and conflict.” –President and Nobel laureate Barack Obama’s U.N. Speech on Climate Change, 2009
Conflict is one of the politically acceptable words for the ugly term, war.

Climate chaos

Climate chaos brings a wide range of threats to food security. Robert Kaplan envisioned in The Coming Anarchy (1994) the core foreign-policy challenge for the 21st century as the “Political and strategic impact of surging populations, spreading disease, deforestation and soil erosion, water depletion, air pollution, and rising sea levels.” He predicted that these events would prompt mass migration and, in turn, incite group conflicts.

A report from Christian Aid estimates 1 billion people will be forced to leave their homes by 2050, which could destabilize whole regions where increasingly desperate populations compete for dwindling food and water.

Sources predicting Climate Change will cause Wars

Sources predicting Climate Change will cause Wars

Thomas Homer-Dixon argues in Terror in the Weather Forecast that climate change will help produce insurgencies, genocide, guerrilla attacks, gang warfare, and global terrorism. A report to the Pentagon An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for U.S. National Security sketches epic scenarios, including the risk of reverting to a Hobbesian state of nature whereby humanity would be engaged in constant battles for diminishing resources. A report by eleven retired U.S. generals and admirals added military authority to climate risks. They argue, “Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instabilityin some of the most volatile regions of the world and that this presents significant national security challenges for the U.S.”

Food scarcity and war

Climate Chaos Threats
to the Food SupplyTemperature

  • Heat spikes
  • Cold spikes
  • Hot dry winds
  • Heat stress
  • Earlier spring
  • Later fall
  • Unpredictability

Water scarcity

  • Drought
  • Faster evaporation
  • More irrigation
  • Stress on aquifers
  • More water conflicts


  • Higher temperatures
  • Higher air moisture
  • More fierce storms
  • New rain patterns
  • Blowing dust
  • Accelerated erosion

Land surface

  • Hotter temperatures
  • Loss of snow pack
  • Loss of glaciers
  • Rivers go dry
  • Amplified wildfires


  • High surface temps
  • Rising sea levels
  • Higher ocean acidity
  • Loss of sea ice
Bad weather for crops causes crop failure, which leads to price spikes, fear, food riots and war. The French Revolution in 1784 ignited due to escalating food prices. “Let them eat cake” (Qu’ils mangent de la brioche), was the response by an out-of-touch Marie Antoinette to the plight of the peasants who had no bread. Crops failed due to extreme weather from El Niño, amplified by the 1783 volcanic activity at Laki and Grímsvötn, Iceland. In Empires of Food, Evan Fraser and Andrew Rimas document over a dozen civilizations that rose and fell with famines caused by extreme weather events that were followed by war.Food causes war and plays a central role in war. Barbara Clark Smith in Food Rioters and the American Revolution chronicled how scarce food, notably sugar, tea and bread in 1775, ignited the American Revolution. Historian Lizzie Collingham reported in The Taste of War: WW II and the Battle for Foodthat 20 million people, about half prisoners, died of starvation in World War II.The 2011 Arab Spring parallels the revolutions across Europe in 1848. The “Spring of Nations” experienced a year of food riots that escalated to revolutions throughout Europe. The “hungry ’40s” saw a decade of bad weather that caused failed harvests. Hungry people in Europe became angry.Angry people organize to bring down governments. Burning food supplies is a classic war strategy intended to undermine sustenance and destroy the will to fight. Burning crops was a common action during the American Revolution and the Indian Wars. During the American Civil War, General Sherman burned a 50-mile swath from Atlanta to Savanna, on the sea, to drain the will to fight from the Confederacy. In Starving the South, Andrew Smith argues the naval blockade that resulted in starvation and hunger was more important than the bullets in winning the Civil War.

Tree rings and war

Can tree rings predict war? Good growing seasons with the right amount of moisture and temperatures that stayed within the narrow range for crops yield relatively wide growth rings. Low growth creates narrow growth rings from bad weather. When trees fail to grow, crops fail too, causing price spikes that lead to unrest, riots and rebellion.

Tree rings record poor growth years,  that link to crop failure and war

Tree rings record poor growth years, that link to crop failure and war

A team led by David Zhang from the University of Hong Kong analyzed tree rings to estimate temperature swings in China over the last thousand years. They reviewed 899 wars fought in China between 1000 and 1911 and found a correlation between the frequency of warfare and temperature changes. Records showed that weather changes resulted in food price inflation, followed by war, famine and population decline. The findings suggest that worldwide price cycles in recent centuries have been driven mainly by weather events associated with climate change.

Farmers used organic production during the many wars in China. Some Chinese farmers continue the practice of using “night soil,” human excrement on their fields. Organic production is more resilient to weather effects than industrial agriculture but yields still drop or fail in bad weather years.

A second team led by David Zhang examined temperature data and climate-driven economic variables during the “golden” and “dark” ages in Europe and the Northern Hemisphere during the past millennium. Their findings align with the China studies. The data indicated that climate change was the ultimate cause, and climate-driven economic downturn was the direct cause, of large-scale human crises in pre-industrial Europe and the Northern Hemisphere.

Risk of war rises with scarcity

Christian Parenti in the Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence examined how societies such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Brazil and Mexico have adapted to the vulgarities of climate change. He concludes that the risk of war rises with food scarcity.

Food Riots lead to Revolutions

Food Riots lead to Revolutions

Struggles over food shortages are occurring with increasing frequency. Over 40 countries experienced severe food riots in 2008 when food prices spiked. Recent food insurrections disrupted national economies, brought down governments, spurred food theft and resulted in thousands of deaths. Countries created policies that prohibited food hording, waste and food exports.

Rising food prices in 2011 ignited the Arab Spring, with revolutions across North Africa. People may tolerate despots as long as they provide sufficient affordable food. Unfortunately, the revolutions spurred by food destroyed much of the infrastructure for growing and transporting food in North Africa.

Recent Food Riots

Recent Food Riots

Stanford University professor David Lobell models climate change and concludes, “The impact of climate change on food production can already be seen, and will worsen as climate change gathers pace.” Lester Brown repeats his mantra in Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity, “The world is only one poor harvest away from disaster.”

Climate independent food with algae

Human survival depends on new sustainable solutions that free farmers from weather constraints and allow food production in nearly any climate. Increasing demand for food requires that at least some food production be climate independent.

Peace microfarms using covered, closed or hybrid designs can produce food 30 times more productively than modern agriculture, independent of climate. Microfarms are adaptable platforms that grow microcrops using sunshine, (or grow lights) and CO2. Growers can use any source for nutrients including wastewater, brine water or ocean water. Of course, safeguards are necessary to kill pathogens and remove heavy metals, if they are present.

Abundance methods reinvent our food supply by growing food and other forms of energy with plentiful resources that will not run out. Microfarms do not compete with industrial foods because growers use renewable rather than fossil resources. Abundance and industrial food production are compatible and can produce simultaneously. Expanding populations need every available form of food production.

America needs a new national food security policy that recognizes and fast tracks microfarms. Microfarms will give farmers independence from weather, water and waste. Farmers will save money by recycling their waste nutrients and deliver healthier foods with more nutralence – nutrient availability and density. Microfarms can help diminish the dead zones by recovering those nutrients on or near the farm.

Peace microfarms could play important roles in foreign aid and disaster relief. Rather than paying for the transport of precious food to distant countries, why not send peace microfarms? This Green Algae Strategy will transform dependent aid recipients into independent microcrop farmers and give them the freedoms developed by American farmers.

Peace microfarms using abundance methods enable growers to produce climate independent foods by cultivating the most productive crop on our planet – algae. Growing food organically, low on the food chain, yields sustainable advantages for consumers, growers and ecosystems. Abundance methods offer the opportunity to leave a superb legacy for our children – green fields, clean streams and affordable healthy food.