Developing strategies to end hunger

Climate Change Caused by Humans, Likely to Undo Progress on Hunger


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has determined with 95 percent certainty that human activity is responsible for Earth’s climate changes between 1950 and 2000, which include rising average surface temperatures and increased climactic volatility. In a draft summary of its forthcoming climate report that was leaked this past weekend, the United Nations panel of top climate scientists notes that the 95 percent figure reflects more confidence in the data than ever before.

The report, the IPCC’s fifth climate assessment since its inception in 1988, also includes an increase in the estimate of how far sea levels will rise because of climate change. The IPCC now believes that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at projected rates, oceans could rise by as much as three feet. That’s enough to severely threaten the very existence of some of the world’s largest cities including New York, Guangzhou (China), Mumbai (India), Nagoya (Japan) to name a few.

Global Mean Sea Level Rise, IPCC Report

This image from the leaked first-order draft of the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report illustrates the group's high-end projections for sea-level increases in the 21st century. (UN IPCC)

Bread for the World Institute focuses primarily on the impact of climate change on hunger -- and on people with the fewest resources to mitigate the damage it is already causing. The world’s poorest people stand to lose the most. The OECD recently reported that climate change is adding another layer of complexity to the already crippling burden of vulnerabilities that poor people must manage. Climate change further reduces access to clean water and threatens agricultural production systems, which in turn endanger the fragile health and food security status of many people in African, Asian, and Latin American countries. In areas where livelihood options are already limited, lower crop yields mean more widespread hunger. Migration is one of the only solutions in areas where climate change is putting coastal land underwater or is projected to do so soon. 

The IPCC’s latest report amplifies a reality that astoundingly somehow still seems to need repeating: climate change can rapidly reverse the world’s hard-won progress against hunger and poverty. Unless decisive action is taken by global leaders in both rich and poor countries to reduce emissions and build resilience in the developing world, one of the worst consequences of climate change – hunger – will become a more intractable and perhaps more widespread problem. Derek Schwabe


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