What’s different this time is that demographic trends point to increasing demand for food as weather patterns undermine supply. As world temperatures rise, agricultural yields are becoming less predictable. And as U.S. droughts remind us, the world’s food chain has become more interconnected at a time when weather has rarely been so erratic. On top of it all, water is becoming scarcer. It’s the new oil.

The quickest fix is increased investment in infrastructure and smart government policies. The first remedy might be easy if not for the traumatized state of the world economy. Strapped nations want the private sector to step up, but market turmoil is reducing appetite for risk-taking.

The second would be more plausible if farsighted leadership were present. How many U.S. politicians are brave enough to end all the policies that encourage massive supplies of corn to be squandered making ethanol? And are Asian leaders willing in this environment to provide a broader safety net?