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Fires, Floods, Famines:
Nations In The Slow Motion Apocalypse

March 12 , 2024
by William P. Meyers

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Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Afghanistan

The Slow Motion Apocalypse marches on, unfazed by throwing a few solar cells and wind turbines at it. It is primarily the result of human overpopulation. The burning of carbon and hydrogen for energy has enabled that overpopulation and led to the global warming driving current and future rounds of fires, floods, famines and heat waves. We also expect more melting ice and sea level rise.

The world is a complex place. Human industry and economics are complex, while nature interacts with itself and with humans in complex ways. It should not be a surprise, then, that some nations and areas have been hit earlier by the Slow Motion Apocalypse than others. While in the past few years there have been serious fires and heat waves in industrial nations like Australia, Canada, the United States, and the European Union states, here I want to focus on those nations worst-hit so far: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, and Afghanistan. I could make the list longer by adding other nations, especially those around the Sahara Desert, but these few should illustrate what we can expect elsewhere as the years roll by.


Famine tends to be the biggest enforcer of the laws of nature. Famine can be caused by bad weather, including excessive heat or cold, drought, and flooding. Insects, rodents and disease can cut into food production. War, poor infrastructure, and economics can contribute to famine. But underlaying all of that is the ratio of human population to the natural productivity of land. Today certain nations like Brazil, Canada, Ukraine and Russia produce far more food than they can consume themselves. This food gets sold to nations, rich and poor, that have agriculture sectors that cannot feed their own populations. Thus we can have local or national famines even when the global food supply is about adequate. So let us look at the populations of the nations most affected so far by the Slow Motion Apocalypse. I take the pre-industrial revolution populations of the year 1800 to be truly sustainable. Note in that year the global population was about 1 billion. It is now about 8 billion.

Nation 1800 population
2020 population
Somalia 1 18
Sudan 5 30
South Sudan 1 9
Chad 2 18
Afghanistan 3 41
global 1,000 8,000

Population data is from Wikipedia and Our World in Data

As you can see, the nations listed account for a very small part of the global population, as they did in 1800. Yet for each nation there has been an astonishing increase in the number of people to be fed.

Heat, Drought, and Fire

Heat, drought, and fire tend to go together, leading to lower food production and, in the worst case, famine. All of the nations listed experience what those from more moderate climates would describe as very hot weather, though Afghanistan has cold winters. The populations of the African nations near the Sahara desert have always had relatively low agricultural productivity due to lack of rainfall. As with all areas, productivity is tightly tied to weather. When rain levels are unusually low, reaching some stage of drought, productivity falls further. In some cases it may fall to zero. All nations of the earth experienced occasional famines during their histories. The ability to grow more food through mechanization and better plant breeding, and to move surplus crops around more efficiently, was one factor in world population growth since 1800. But when there is no ground water, or no ability to pump it, and no or little rain, local productivity (crops or grazing animals) can drop to zero. Global warming has led to more drought. Heat domes at critical times have led to crop failures even when rain has been adequate.

Fire also can destroy crops and herd animals. The recent spectacular fires in Australia, Canada, Texas, Brazil, and even the southern European region illustrate what is likely to become a more common pattern. The main reason that fire has not affected the nations in the table is that they have relatively little forest and pasture land to burn. If nations like Russia, Ukraine, and Brazil suffer serious, widespread fires in crop producing regions, that could lead to grain shortages worldwide. All nations are likely to suffer from heat domes and drought as the world continues to heat up.

Floods and Storms

Global warming can also create storms with winds and rain that destroy crops. Again, localities suffered famines at many points in history because of unusual storms, winds, or flooding. Most recently we have seen severe flooding in many places where it had not previously been a problem. In some cases this flooding was widespread enough to cause major agricultural losses and hunger, as in Pakistan in 2022.

Slow Motion Apocalypse Going Forward

The Slow Motion Apocalypse, including global warming, has already affected every nation of the world to some extent. So far the richer economies have been resilient enough to make each incident seem isolated and fixable. California is rebuilding from its catastrophic wildfires of a few years back, for instance. Russia, Brazil, and Ukraine had good harvests in the 2023 crop year. But what has happened in Chad, Somalia, and Afghanistan is likely to progress to larger areas sometime in the next decade. A widespread crop failure in Ukraine and Russia simultaneously would put many nations at risk of famine. The U.S. is also a net food exporter, but a long, widespread heat dome over the midwest could change that in the course of a single year. Meanwhile, groundwater in important agricultural regions is being sucked out so fast that at some point, which will vary by locality, it will dry up, leading to crop failures.

There are other aspects of the Slow Motion Apocalypse that are hard to predict. One is whether anything will convince people to give up their carbon-dioxide-based lifestyles. Another is whether people in nations with high birth rates will finally learn to use birth control. While I would like to see happy news, my best guess is that most people will do what is convenient, not what benefits the planet. I base that both on watching political grid lock and watching my (supposedly) environmentalist friends spew CO2 while flying around the globe for vacations. When you watch those who claim to be the most environmentally conscious do the worst thing an individual can do for global warming, it is difficult to put on a happy face.

The Slow Motion Apocalypse is coming. It will likely hurt the poorest people in the world first. But it will catch up with the middle class, and even the rich, sooner or later.

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