“Climate change is the current cause of drought and famine.”
By Dr. John J. Hidore
December 10, 2018—There are many causes of famine, but one of the major ones is drought. Most of the past catastrophic famines have been precipitated by drought resulting from short term shifts in the atmospheric circulation.
Crop Yield and Drought
Drought generally occurs when there is a short-term lack of precipitation lasting more then one growing season. They are the most common in regions which have a pronounced seasonal rainfall regime. Drought affects the quality and quantity of crop yields and the food supply for domestic animals. During severe droughts there may be a great loss of domestic animals. The loss of milk products or meat increases the impact of drought.
Great famines have occurred throughout the Asian continent from the time that agriculture spread over the continent. China, India, Russia, and many middle-east countries have suffered frequently from famine resulting from drought. A famine is described as occurring during the time of Abraham, about 2247 BC. A massive famine occurred in Egypt prior to the exodus of the Israelites.
Drought and famine are endemic in India and China. The oldest record of famine in India goes back at least to 400 B.C. and in China to 108 B.C. From the time of the earliest known famine there have been nearly continuous episodes of drought and famine in some part of the region. Other regions experience droughts as well. It should be mentioned here that what is often referred to as The Great Famine occurred in Europe in the period from 1315-1317.
Eighteenth Century Drought and Famine in India
In the mid-eighteenth century the people of India were largely subsistence farmers. It was primarily crop agriculture based on the whims of the monsoons. The country was under the control of the British East India Company, which kept the farmers on the verge of starvation under the best of conditions. Because of the general poverty of the masses and the marginal nature of the food supply, only a small shortfall in the crops in a given year produced scattered starvation. India is a huge country, and at the time only a ponderous transportation system existed. There was no means of moving large quantities of food, nor of moving large numbers of people to areas where food was available. When drought set in there were few alternatives to starvation available.
Drought and Famine: 1768
In the summer of 1768 there was little rain and crops were poor. The drought continued into 1769. Famine was apparent in the northern parts of Bengal by November 1769. By April 1770 over 30 million people in West Bengal and Bihar were affected. Fatalities were estimated at upwards of 10 million. The deaths were the result of both starvation and disease. Smallpox became epidemic along with the drought. The death toll from this famine is the highest known from any famine up to this time.
Famine has often been a problem in some part of the world since this event. As with this one, short term climate change has been the primary cause.