Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices: The costs of feeding a warming world

Please download to get full document.

View again

of 14
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Information Report
Category:

Others

Published:

Views: 3 | Pages: 14

Extension: PDF | Download: 0

Share
Related documents
Description
Climate change is making extreme weather much more likely. As the 2012 drought in the USA shows, extreme weather means extreme food prices. Our failure to slash greenhouse gas emissions presents a future of greater food price volatility, with severe consequences for the precarious lives and livelihoods of people living in poverty. This briefing draws on new research commissioned by Oxfam which models the impact of extreme weather – like droughts, floods and heat waves – on the prices of key international staple crops in 2030. It suggests that existing research, which considers the gradual effects of climate change but does not take account of extreme weather, is significantly underestimating the potential implications of climate change for food prices. This research shows how extreme weather events in a single year could bring about price spikes of comparable magnitude to two decades of long-run price rises. It signals the urgent need for a full stress-testing of the global food system in a warming world.
Transcript
  OXFAM ISSUE BRIEFING SEPTEMBER 2012 www.oxfam.org EXTREME WEATHER, EXTREME PRICES The costs of feeding a warming world Farmer Aissata Abdoul Diop, Mauritania March 2012, with dried maize ears. Lack of rain and rising food prices means that people living in the Mauritanian Sahel are at risk of food insecurity. Photo: Pablo Tosco Climate change is making extreme weather – like droughts, floods and heat waves – much more likely. As the 2012 drought in the US shows, extreme weather means extreme food prices. Our failure to slash greenhouse gas emissions presents a future of greater food price volatility, with severe consequences for the precarious lives and livelihoods of people in poverty.   This briefing draws on new research which models the impact of extreme weather on the prices of key international staple crops in 2030. It suggests that existing research, which considers the gradual effects of climate change but does not take account of extreme weather, is significantly underestimating the potential implications of climate change for food prices. This research shows how extreme weather events in a single year could bring about price spikes of comparable magnitude to two decades of long-run price rises. It signals the urgent need for a full stress-testing of the global food system in a warming world.   2 FOOD PRICES IN A CHANGING CLIMATE Increased hunger is likely to be one of climate change’s most savage impacts on humanity. Greenhouse gas emissions are driving temperature increases, shifting rainfall patterns, and making extreme weather events more likely – like the 2012 drought in the US Midwest – with devastating consequences for agricultural production. Against a backdrop of rising populations and changing diets which will see global food production struggle to keep pace with increasing demand, the food security outlook in a future of unchecked climate change is bleak. The impact of climate change on food production can already be seen, and will worsen as climate change gathers pace. 1  First, slow-onset changes in mean temperatures and precipitation patterns are putting downward pressure on average global yields. 2  Added to this are crop losses resulting from more frequent and intense extreme weather events. 3  Research to date has focused almost exclusively on the first impact, modelling the extent of long-run average price rises in the absence of price volatility caused by extreme weather. This tells only half the story, but the assessments are nevertheless alarming. Oxfam-commissioned research suggests that the average   price of staple foods such as maize could more than double in the next 20 years compared with 2010 trend prices – with up to half of the increase due to changes in average temperatures and rainfall patterns. 4  More frequent and extreme weather events will compound things further, creating shortages, destabilizing markets, and precipitating food price spikes which will be felt on top of the projected structural price rises.  As 2012’s US drought, the most severe in over half a century shows, weather-related shocks, especially in major crop exporting countries, can drive up prices precipitously in the short term. They can also trigger responses among producer and consumer countries, such as an export ban in the case of the Russian drought in 2010, which escalate prices further. The strain that price spikes have put on the global food system in recent years has aggravated political instability and social strife in many parts of the world. 5  Such weather and food price extremes could become the new ‘normal’. More research is needed to ‘stress-test’ the global food system: to identify its vulnerabilities and the policy options to increase resilience in a warming world, particularly for the world’s poorest consumers and food producers. The research presented in this paper is a first step. ‘There are reasons to expect more frequent food price spikes, given that it will be more common to see (weather) conditions that are considered extreme’ David Lobell, Assistant Professor of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University. ‘Without action at the global level to address climate change, we will see farmers across Africa – and in many other parts of the world, including in America – forced to leave their land. The result will be mass migration, growing food shortages, loss of social cohesion and even political instability.’ Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General   3 Box 1: Extreme weather and climate change In March 2012 a special report on extreme weather by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of ‘unprecedented extreme weather and climate events’ in the future. 6  The future may already be here. Many parts of the world have seen new records set in the past year alone: ã  July 2012 was the USA’s hottest month on record, contributing to the warmest 12-month period in the country since records began. ã  The UK experienced the heaviest ever rainfall from April to June 2012, and in 2011, the highest ever maximum temperature in October and the warmest November in 100 years. ã  In July 2012, China experienced the heaviest ever recorded rainfall to hit Beijing in a 14-hour period. ã  June 2012 was the 328 th  consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20 th  century average. Extreme weather has always occurred due to natural variability, but scientists are now able to quantify the extent to which such extreme events have been made more likely by man-made climate change. Recent studies have shown, for example, how global warming more than doubled the chances of the 2003 European heat wave, and made the 2011 Texas drought 20 times more likely. Not all extreme weather events can be attributed to climate change in this way, but pumping emissions into the atmosphere is loading the climate dice and increasing the probability of extreme weather. 7   FOOD PRICE VOLATILITY HITS POOR PEOPLE HARDEST Food price spikes are a matter of life and death to many people in developing countries, who spend as much as 75 per cent of their income on food. 8  The FAO estimates that the 2007/08 food price spike contributed to an eight per cent rise in the number of undernourished people in Africa. Price rises in the second half of 2010 caused further turmoil, contributing to an increase in the estimated number of hungry people globally to 925 million. 9  For vulnerable people, sudden and extreme price hikes can be more devastating than gradual long-term rises to which they may have more chance of adjusting. Though the price spike and coping strategies may be short term, the impacts are often felt across generations. An increase in malnutrition can cause stunting and reduce developmental potential in young children. 10  Research by Oxfam on the effects of the 2011 food price crisis documents the coping strategies of people forced to change their diets, sell productive assets, incur debt, withdraw children from school, marry early and to migrate to areas where food might be available. 11  Price volatility also hits small-scale food producers. Poor farmers may struggle to take advantage of rapid price increases, as they lack the access to credit, land or other inputs they need to expand production. In addition, many small farms are in fact net food consumers, meaning that when prices increase, they are worse off. Finally, volatility makes it hard for poor farmers to invest: because ‘Of course I feel hungry. I feel hungry until I become weak. When I’m hungry, if possible, I prepare a broth for myself and my kids – otherwise we drink some water and we sleep’  Adjitti Mahamat, 40, Chad, where 3.6 million people are currently food-insecure due to drought, chronic poverty, and food prices which have increased by up to 30– 60 per cent across the Sahel region compared with five-year average prices.   4 they do not have access to hedging instruments, they are unable to bear the risk of a future collapse in prices. Successive droughts in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa expose the hardship of cumulative shocks, which erode resilience and peoples’ capacity to recover from one crisis to the next. Niger is today experiencing a food crisis affecting more than five million people, less than two years since the last crisis in 2010, and within the same decade as the 2005 crisis. For developing countries, a future of more frequent and intense extreme weather, reducing food availability and raising prices, means a downward spiral of worsening food insecurity and deepening poverty. Box 2: Double jeopardy: when food prices go up and purchasing power goes down  When a weather event drives local or regional price spikes, people living in poverty often face a double shock: having to cope with higher prices at a time when the direct effects of the weather may have also depleted their assets, destroyed their crops or stripped them of their livelihood. The 2011 emergency in the Horn of Africa and the 2012 Sahel food crisis show how this toxic mix can bring about hunger on a mass scale. Pastoralists and small-scale subsistence farmers are hit hard in both regions, where the loss of livestock and crops has diminished available food and drastically reduced the value of their assets so that they cannot afford to buy food either. This is shown in the declining terms of trade experienced by pastoralists across the Sahel: in June 2011 in Bandiagara, Mali, a sheep was exchanged for 267 kg of millet; a year later it received only 126 kg. ‘WHAT IF?’ SCENARIOS FOR 2030  As the world lurches into a third food price spike in four years, the prospect of a future of more extreme weather calls for stress-testing the global food system under climate change. As a first step, new research commissioned by Oxfam from the Institute of Development Studies investigates how weather extremes induced by climate change might affect food price volatility in the future. 12  The purpose is not to predict the future, but to understand better the kind of food price spikes that could become a common reality in a world of more frequent and intense weather events, and highlight the need for effective policy responses. The research models extreme weather event scenarios in 2030 for sub-Saharan  Africa and for each of the main global export regions for rice, maize and wheat. The approach uses the GLOBE Computable General Equilibrium model of the global economy in order to estimate how export and domestic prices for key commodities could be impacted in 2030. 13  Yield shocks were modelled based on the impacts of historical weather events on yields over the period 1979–2009. For each region the most significant weather-related yield shock was selected, ensuring that it was consistent with projections of how climate change might impact on the region in the future. In June 2011 in Bandiagara, Mali, a sheep was exchanged for 267 kg of millet; in June 2012 it received only 126 kg. The prospect of a future of more extreme weather calls for stress-testing the global food system under climate change.
Recommended
View more...
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks