Hot and Hungry: How to stop climate change derailing the fight against hunger | Food Security

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Climate change threatens to put back the fight to eradicate hunger by decades
    OXFAM MEDIA BRIEFING Embargoed: 00:01 GMT 25 March Ref: 06/2014  Hot and hungry  –  how to stop climate change derailing the fight against hunger SUMMARY Hunger is not and need never be inevitable. However climate change threatens to put back the fight to eradicate it by decades  –  and our global food system is woefully unprepared to cope with the challenge. Next week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will publish new evidence showing that the impact of climate change on global hunger will hit harder and sooner than previously thought. In the face of this challenge, Oxfam analyses how well the world’s food system is prepared for the impacts of climate change. We assess ten key factors that influence a country’s ability to feed its people in a warming world –  these include the quality of weather monitoring systems, social safety nets, agricultural research and adaptation finance. Across all ten areas we found a serious gap between what is happening and what is needed to protect our food systems. These gaps in preparedness are driven by poverty, inequality and lack of political will. While many countries  –  both rich and poor  –  are inadequately prepared for the impact of climate change on food, it is the world’s  poorest and most food insecure countries that are generally the least prepared for and most susceptible to harmful climate change. No country's food system will be unaffected by worsening climate change. There is still time to fix the problem. What countries do today to prepare for climate change  –  and the degree to which the poorest countries are supported  –  will, to a large extent, determine how many people go hungry over the next two decades. And how far and fast countries cut their emissions will determine whether our food systems can continue to support us in the second half of the century. Oxfam is calling on governments, business and publics across the globe to take action to stop climate change making people hungry. HOW WILL CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT WHAT WE EAT? Climate change is already affecting what, when and how much people eat around the world, as well as where they live and what they do for a living. There could be 25 million more malnourished children under the age of 5 in 2050, compared with a world without climate change  –   that’  s the equivalent of all the children under 5 in the US and Canada combined. 1    2  Already this year there have been a number of record-breaking weather events around the globe which have badly affected agriculture and the availability and affordability of food. In Brazil, the worst drought in a decade has ruined crops in the country’s  breadbasket region  –  including the valuable coffee harvest, causing the price of coffee to shoot up by 50 percent. 2  In California the worst drought in over 100 years is hitting the state’s agricultural industry, which produces nearly half of all the vegetables, fruits and nuts grown in the US. 3   And Australia has opened the year with a record heat wave and drought hitting farmers hard. 4  These extreme weather events are in line with what scientists have been telling us to expect from a warming climate. On 31 March 2014 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which represents the views of the global scientific community, will publish its Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation. Leaked copies of the report indicate that the impact of climate change on global hunger will be worse than previously reported, and severe impacts will be felt much sooner  –  in the next 20  – 30 years in the poorest countries .5 Fishing wiped out in the Philippines Typhoon Haiyan  –  the strongest storm to ever make landfall  –  hit the Philippines in November 2013 leaving a path of death and devastation in its wake. Th e Philippines’  once-thriving fishing industry has been decimated; 20,000 fishing households have been affected. Many fisherfolk have lost their boats and rely on food aid to survive. The typhoon destroyed mangroves and coral reefs, which are important breeding grounds for fish and shellfish, and fish stocks are substantially lower than they were before the typhoon. In an effort to improve their catch, an increasing number of people have turned to illegal practices such as dynamite fishing and the use of fine nets  –  activities that will further undermine fish stocks. Mario Waniwan (23) lives in Barangay Batang, Eastern Samar, and used to make a living from fishing and collecting mud crabs from the mangroves. ‘I can’t fish, my boat was destroyed and all my crab fishing equipment was washed away. The mangroves are totally washed out, so there are no crabs any more. It will be three to five years before the mangroves grow back and can be occupied by sea creatures. ‘I’m married and hav  e a ten-month-old son, Marvin. We ate three meals a day before the typhoon ... Now, there is no more fish, no more meat, and no more money. I have no other income so if the food aid stops we will have nothing to help us. I’m very worried.’    Climate change could make extreme weather events such as Typhoon Haiyan more common in the future. Food production In its last report, published in 2007, the IPCC painted a mixed picture regarding the impact of climate change on global crop production. It said that negative effects in some parts of the world could potentially be offset by positive effects elsewhere. 6  This year it is expected to warn that negative impacts will outweigh any positive effects  –  with net global agricultural yields predicted to decrease by up to two percent per decade. Crucially, these decreases will take place within the context of persisting hunger and a rapidly rising global population, where demand for food is expected to increase by 14 percent per decade. 7    3 The impacts of extreme weather events on food production and consumption are well-documented. For example, extreme floods in Pakistan in 2010 destroyed an estimated two million hectares of crops, killed 40 percent of the livestock in affected areas, and delayed the planting of winter crops, causing the price of basic foods such as rice and wheat to rocket. 8  As a consequence, an estimated eight million people reported eating less food and less nutritious food over an extended period of time. However it is not only extreme weather events that threaten global food security. More marginal shifts, including seemingly small increases in temperature and changes in rainfall patterns, are already having major impacts on people ’s  ability to provide food for their families. Shifting seasons and hunger in Central America Millions of poor people across Central America are facing hunger and destitution as a result of shifting patterns of rainfall and rising temperatures. In Guatemala, the total amount of rainfall is increasing, but there is significantly less rain during critical times in the crop cycle, and this is taking a heavy toll on harvests. In the last two years small-scale producers have lost 80 percent of their maize crops because of drought. High temperatures combined with heavy rains and dry periods have also given rise to the coffee rust plague, which has infected 70 percent of coffee plantations. It is estimated that at least 22 percent of the coffee crop has been lost during 2013  – 14, with smallholder farmers among the worst affected. Poor agricultural labourers will also be hit hard  –  an estimated 200,000 temporary agricultural jobs will be lost as a result of the coffee rust. The loss of crops and employment means people are struggling to feed their families. In 2013 there was an estimated 30 percent decrease in consumption of maize and beans  –  the staple foods in Guatemala  –  while the incidence of acute malnutrition increased by 23 percent in 2013, having already risen almost 25 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year.   Food prices Other expected IPCC findings include higher and more volatile food prices as a result of climate change. Over the last six years there have been three global food price spikes in 2008, 2010 and 2012  –  closely associated with supply shocks driven in part by extreme weather. Oxfam research predicts that food prices could double by 2030, with half of this rise driven by climate change. 9  A study by International Food Policy Research Institute finds similar magnitudes of price increases due to climate change. They estimate that, as a result, calorie availability in 2050 will be lower than in 2000 throughout the developing world  –  effectively putting the fight against hunger back by several decades. 10  Extreme weather events will cause prices to spike further on top of this. 11  Oxfam and the Institute of Development Studies have documented the impact of high and volatile food prices on people’s lives across 10 developing countries. We found that people employ a number of coping strategies including working longer hours; cutting back on more costly and preferred foods  –  particularly protein-rich meat and fish  –  and buying cheaper and less nutritious food; shopping in bulk for discounts; growing, gathering, and processing their own food; shopping in small quantities to manage daily incomes; borrowing, begging, stealing; cutting down on portions, cutting out meals and going hungry. 12  Rising food prices are not just a problem in the developing world. The cost of food in the UK has risen by 30.5 percent in the past five years 13  and has exacerbated other pressures  4  –  such as unemployment, low wages and the removal of social protection  –  making it harder for people to feed themselves. This led to a tripling of food bank usage in 2013. 14   Threshold for adaptation We are already seeing the impacts of climate change on food and hunger, and can expect serious consequences for the food security of millions of people if global temperatures are allowed to rise by about 1.5 degrees, the warming target supported by more than 100 poor countries. In its forthcoming report, the IPCC is expected to highlight a global temperature threshold of three to four degrees, beyond which there will be little we can do to avoid severe damage to food production in many areas of the world. Above this threshold we could face runaway food crises. We are currently on track to cross this threshold in the second half of this century. WORLD UNPREPARED FOR CLIMATE IMPACTS ON FOOD Oxfam assessed the extent to which our global food system is prepared for the impacts of climate change by looking at 10 areas of national and global food and climate policy. There are many important determinants of hunger, including income levels, demographic trends and conflict, which are not included here. Similarly, tackling the impact of climate change on food will require action across a much broader range of policies and practices than just these 10 areas; indeed, climate change should be mainstreamed across all food policy. However, Oxfam’s experience and the wider academic literature suggest these 10 factors  will have a major influence on whether countries are fit to feed themselves in a warming world. While our results show a great deal of variability in preparedness between and within countries, the global picture is of a food system that is dangerously unprepared for the impacts of climate change. It indicates that many countries  –  rich and poor  –  are unprepared for climate impacts on food, but it is the poorest and most food insecure countries that are almost always the furthest behind in these important areas of food policy and practice. The 10 key policy and practice areas  –  or gaps  –  are outlined below. We have allocated each a score out of 10 to indicate the size of the global adaptation gap in that area.  Additional new analysis by Oxfam demonstrates that countries currently experiencing high levels of food insecurity also face the greatest risk of climate change impacts (see figure below 15 ). However, it also shows that some countries such as Ghana, Viet Nam and Malawi are bucking this trend  –  enjoying far higher levels of food security than countries such as Nigeria, Laos and Niger, which have comparable levels of income and face comparable magnitudes of climate change risk. A key difference is that Ghana, Viet Nam and Malawi have already taken action on some of the 10 key policy and practice measures we highlight. These examples, discussed in more detail in the box below, illustrate that hunger is still not inevitable. For the next two decades, how well countries adapt to and prepare for climate change impacts on food, and the degree to which the poorest countries are supported in doing so, will determine to a large extent whether and where people will go hungry.
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