How the climate crisis could become a food crisis overnight

In the summer of 2010, Russia faced a severe drought, a heat wave and a series of catastrophic wildfires, destroying a third of the country’s wheat harvest. Half a year later, the Arab Spring began.

The two are connected: The Middle East and North Africa, among the most food-insecure regions in the world, rely heavily on grain imports from the Black Sea, especially Russia, one of the world’s largest wheat exporters. But the Russian government banned grain exports amid the dismal harvest, looking to protect its own food supply.

Sapped of a major supplier, countries across the two regions saw bread prices skyrocket. And while many other factors fueled the political unrest characterized as the Arab Spring, the high cost of food fueled the broad popular discontent that prompted a string of attempts to overthrow illiberal regimes — some successful, some violently suppressed.