Inflation dominated news headlines and American psyches in 2022. Overall, consumer prices jumped an average 7.1 percent this year, with the cost of just about everything going up, from cars to coffee and gas to groceries. The trend triggered a bitter midterm election campaign, prompted a series of aggressive interest-rate hikes from the Federal Reserve, and fears about an impending recession.
The causes were numerous, from the war in Ukraine to the post-pandemic economic recovery. But in many sectors, the specter of climate change was also lurking behind these higher costs. Extreme swings in temperature and precipitation caused shortages and soaring prices for essential utilities like electricity, heat, and water. A series of catastrophic weather disasters scrambled the supply chains for vegetables and staple grains.
Many of us tend to think that we’re still immune to the direct effects of the climate crisis, but make no mistake — those effects are already here, and they’re hitting our wallets. Here is a look at some of the ways warming came back to bite us at the cash register in 2022.
Food prices rose about 10 percent this year, one of the highest rates in decades. The surge in grocery bills has been spurred by pandemic supply chain issues and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but climate change played a bigger role than many people realize. Searing heat and other extreme weather hurt crops and livestock around the globe, driving up food costs in a phenomenon known as “heatflation.”
This summer, an unprecedented heat wave in China ruined the corn and soy crops used to feed pigs, sending the cost of pork, the country’s staple meat, soaring. Spain and Italy experienced a stretch of 100-degree temperatures and drought conditions that slashed olive harvests; by November, the price of extra-virgin olive oil in Spain, the world’s largest olive