Climate Change Endangers Food Security Worldwide
“Extreme weather like the droughts in Russia, China and Brazil and the flooding in Pakistan and Australia [in 2010] have contributed to a level of food price volatility we haven’t seen since the oil crisisof 40 years ago. Unfortunately, this could be just a taste of things to come because in the next few decades the build-up of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere could greatly increase the risk of droughts, flooding, pest infestation and water scarcity for agriculture systems already under tremendous stress.” — John Beddington, UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser (March, 2011)
Already, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 1 billion people are starving and another 2.5 billion are malnourished.
“Feeding some 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of a rapidly worsening climate may well be the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced,” as I argued in the journal Nature. Oxfam has been one of the leaders in making this case (see Oxfam Predicts Climate Change will Help Double Food Prices by 2030: “We Are Turning Abundance into Scarcity”).
On the eve of the international climate talks in Durban, Oxfam has released a new report that opens with Beddington’s quote and warns:
Climate change is likely to have a pernicious effect on food production in two main ways. Firstly, slow onset changes in mean temperatures and precipitation patterns are expected to put downward pressure on average yields. Added to this will be crop losses resulting from more frequent and intense extreme weather events.
Research to date has focused almost exclusively on the first impact, modeling the extent of long-run average price rises in the absence of volatility….
But this paints only a partial picture. More frequent and extreme weather events will compound things further, creating shortages, destabilizing markets and precipitating price spikes, which will be felt on top of the structural price rises predicted by the models. One need not rely on imagination to understand how this could play out for the world’s poorest people. Looking at the toll extreme weather events are taking on global food security since 2010 alone paints an alarming picture.
The whole report is worth reading, but here is their summary along with recommendations for Durban: