UXBRIDGE, Canada, Oct 2 (IPS)
Rocketing food prices and hundreds of millions more starving people will be part of humanity’s grim future without concerted action on climate change and new investments in agriculture, experts reported this week.
The current devastating drought in East Africa, where millions of people are on the brink of starvation, is a window on our future, suggests a new study looking at the impacts of climate change.
“Twenty-five million more children will be malnourished in 2050 due to effects of climate change,” such as decreased crop yields, crop failures and higher food prices, concluded the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study.
“Of all human economic activities, agriculture is by far the most vulnerable to climate change,” warned the report’s author, Gerald Nelson, an agricultural economist with IFPRI, a Washington-based group focused on global hunger and poverty issues.
The report, “Quantifying the Costs of Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change“, may be the “most comprehensive assessment of the impact of climate change on agriculture to date”, as IFPRI claims, but researchers concede that there is no current way to quantify all of the future repercussions of changing weather patterns on the food supply.
A critical component of agriculture is knowing the best time to plant seeds, for example. Farmers rely on their past experience and weather records. But one of the most robust science findings is that climate change has and will produce significant increases in weather variability.
This means extremes like droughts or floods will happen more often or last longer, and extreme temperature shifts are more likely. The past is no longer a reliable guide for farmers because the fundamental conditions in the atmosphere have been altered – far more heat is being trapped in the atmosphere today because of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than at any time since the dawn of agriculture.
Nelson told IPS that the IFPRI report is a “conservative estimate” of the potential impacts and does not include impacts of pests and disease, loss of farmland due to rising sea levels or loss of water from melting glaciers. Continue reading