Tanzania: Where Climate Change Could Be a Good Thing?
Takepart.com – Wed, Aug 1, 2012
Tanzania could actually benefit from climate change by increasing corn exports to the United States and other countries that may have more difficulty producing the crop in the future, according to a new study.
Researchers at Stanford, Purdue University, and the World Bank set out to determine how certain trade policies might provide a buffer for countries like Tanzania from the worst effects of climate change.
Tanzania, they found, could take advantage of worsening drought in countries like the U.S., China, and, India by selling more maize, its staple crop, to places with less rainfall.
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The study, which was published in Review of Development Economics, used economic, climatic, and agricultural data, along with computational models, to forecast weather in Tanzania for its international trading partners for the next nine decades.
The country will have adequate and moist growing weather in most of the years that its African trading partners will experience severe dry spells, they found. In 96 percent of the years that the U.S. and China are predicted to be dry and inhospitable for farming, Tanzania will not suffer drought.
Furthermore, because poverty rates have dropped historically in the East African nation during years that produced a lot of maize, study authors argue that an increase in climate-change-related exports might reduce poverty in Tanzania. Yes, you read that right: climate change will lift Tanzanians out of poverty.
However, the researchers cautioned that the Tanzanian government would have to create more open-trade policies so that citizens could take advantage of surplus maize. The government has a history of issuing heavy controls over its trade policies.
In 2011, the Tanzanian government banned maize exports, a policy it implemented to try to ensure food security in the country as its East African neighbors were enduring famine. But some analysts believe the practice merely enriched the wealthy and hurt the rural poor. The ban was lifted earlier this year.
Current “trade policies and international agreements implicitly reflect the climate that we have now,” says Noah Diffenbaugh, co-author of the study, and assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences.
In the future, countries will need to reevaluate their trade policies and work with partners to ensure that trade can mitigate the coming food shortages. “The greater level of integration, the greater potential to buffer any country when there’s a [climate] shock,” Diffenbaugh told TakePart.
Many developing countries rely heavily on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and tourism—all industries that are likely to be impacted by climate change, according to a 2009 report by the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. Countries that are disadvantaged in certain sectors will likely have to rely on trade with other nations to meet their needs.
Right when the local food movement is hitting primetime, a growing body of literature seeks to understand how climate change will shift the way food will be shuffled around the world. Which international mechanisms and infrastructure will govern these shifts will likely be a matter of much debate.
Trading, of course, involves emitting greenhouse gases by transporting massive quantities of goods—something else that countries will have to take into account as they seek to lower their ecological footprints while simultaneously providing for their citizens.
Food for thought: according to the World Trade Organization, the most carbon-efficient method for shipping goods internationally is maritime transport.
How do you feel about a country potentially benefitting economically from climate change?