Supply chain problems are getting worse – and climate change is the main culprit

As the economy continues to falter, the name of the game is product shortages. Supply chain disruptions have left grocery store shelves bare, forced gamers to suffer console and headphone shortages, and led to microchip shortages across the electronics industry. The rise in consumer prices is partly due to this shortage. Now that Republicans have drawn attention to baby food shortages, the question appears to have been politicized: Should supply chain issues be blamed on the party in power?

The answer is that our supply chain issues are global in scope – and in more ways than one. Product shortage is due to the fact that most of our merchandise is transported over long distances for use in manufacture, sale or other use. Imagine a giant spider web extending all over the planet. Like a baseball that crushes every thread, unexpected problems can destroy the major ways that allow our supply chains to function.

Related: Thanks to climate change, supply chain disruptions are poised to be the new normal

This is why climate change in particular is expected to lead to more product shortages. Dr. Thomas Goldsby, professor of supply chain management at the University of Tennessee-Haslam School of Business in Knoxville, told Salon that volatile and unpredictable weather patterns will fundamentally change our economy.

“The frequency and intensity of these unexpected weather patterns alter consumer shopping behaviors as well as the judgments companies make to address them,” Goldsby explained. “Companies have to build more redundancy into their production and distribution networks to compensate for this fluctuation – and this all comes at higher costs.”

In addition to changing consumer behavior, scientists agree that climate change will alter the physical landscape in a profound and transformative way. For one thing, sea levels are expected to rise. Even when that happens, heat waves will cause widespread droughts. Both of these things will have consequences for the economy.


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“Take the alarming low levels of Lake Mead that supply parts of Nevada, Arizona and California with vital water,” Goldsby noted. “Water supplies are cut off and farms lack basic hydration to make them viable. The quality of life for non-farmers is affected as well. I hear the term ‘climate refugees’ more frequently.”

“Beginning around the 1970s and 1980s, there was a dramatic acceleration of something that had been going on for a long time – the job movement.”

As is often the case when it comes to climate change, marginalized communities are expected to take a disproportionate hit. As Shahram Azhar, associate professor of economics at Bucknell University, wrote to Salon last year, “Climate change has a clear negative impact on the planet’s natural ecosystem (pests, coral bleaching, etc.) which is central to agricultural production. People are stratified, and that basically means More food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty through higher food prices on the one hand and instability in jobs and incomes on the other.”

It is not tragically surprising that climate change will impact deeply marginalized groups as it begins to shut down supply chains. These extensive supply chains exist in large part because wealthy interest groups wanted to exploit cheap labor, says Richard Wolf, University of Massachusetts Amherst economist emeritus. This is why supply chain collapse can be described as a “global” problem in more ways than one. Not only are they severely affected by global events such as climate change, but supply chain disruptions occur due to globalization.

“Beginning in the ’70s and ’80s, there was a huge acceleration of something that had been going on for a long time – the movement of jobs, initially in manufacturing although it has since extended to services as well,” Wolf told Salon. “And the motive was profit, as always. Profit is the bottom line. And profit is the goal of the enterprise because that’s what capitalism does. Thanks in part to internet technology and air travel technology, which became natural in these years, it is now possible to take advantage of And there were political conditions as well as much cheaper labor elsewhere in the world.”

Wolf explained, “When wages are rising, the capitalists are always motivated to find an alternative solution, a way to avoid paying their own wages.”

With wages rising in Western democracies like the United States, companies have realized that they can increase their profit margins by manufacturing different products at different points around the world. With lower transportation and communication costs, this will be cheaper than using domestic labor. Once the inevitable long supply chains are established, companies can then claim that this has been an inevitable outgrowth of the economy, as opposed to a buildup of deliberate choices that would not have been made if our global economic system had not been driven by profit.

“Capitals are always motivated, when wages are up, to find an alternative solution, a way to avoid being paid,” Wolf explained, explaining that this extends from automation to outsourcing of jobs. In the process, they leave consumers vulnerable to disruptions caused by environmental issues – and this is even before the era of climate change.

Wolf explained, noting a series of dust storms that swept through the region: the American Midwest due to poor agricultural practices. “Once you make the thing global by going abroad, you obviously become vulnerable to droughts and floods and whatever else is happening now, not just in the continental United States, but on a global scale. You either have to take steps to avoid climate change, or you spend money to accommodate the process. the modification involved.”

“The problem with capitalism is that these issues take time and money, and they don’t want to do that either,” Wolf added.

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