In a recent paper titled The Arab Spring and Climate Change, the link between climate change and political change in the Arab world was highlighted.  The paper, which is a series of essays, concludes that climate change created adverse climatic conditions in many of the major grain producing countries; arguing that drought, heatwaves and fires caused production to drop in Russia and the Ukraine, while the excessive cold and rain impacted affected Australian and Canadian supplies.

These events pushed up the price of wheat on global markets, which had a major effect on the average Arab consumer, which at the time was consuming a considerable proportion of their diet from wheat, and were largely spending between 30-40% of their salary on food.  When wheat prices rose, this caused a massive hit to the young and repressed populations of the Arab world, and looking at things very simply, the Arab Spring followed.

Australian food export prices helped to dramatically alter the political landscape in the Arab world, but that also had a big effect on the Australian economy.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), has published the top imports in Australia by country, and by type of goods or service.  The largest single import which Australians spent the most money on is personal travel, with the next highest being crude petroleum, followed by passenger motor vehicles, refined petroleum and freight transport services.

However, combing crude and refined petroleum products makes them by far the largest imports to Australia, with $20.9 billion of crude and $15.6 billion of refined petrol imported in 2011-12, for a combined value of $36.5 billion.

During the Arab Spring, the price that Australians pay at the pump increased fairly dramatically, as global oil prices passed the $100 per barrel mark on the back of the uprising in Egypt in early 2011.  This process saw the total value of all petroleum imports into Australia increase by 44% in 2011-12 compared to 2009-10.

It seems that global warming can hurt Australians in a myriad of ways that are not initially evident.  While climate change scientists may demand that Australians need to pay more at the pump in order to nudge consumers away from fossil fuels, Aussies are already paying more due to climate change affecting export crops, which in turn is bringing down corrupt regimes that funnel oil profits into Swiss bank accounts rather than helping feed their own downtrodden subjects.  This line of thinking really shows how interconnected the whole world has become, and is just one example of the global feedback loop.



*  DFAT, Australia’s trade in goods and services

*  Center For American Progress, The Arab Spring and Climate Change


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