Food Insecurity and Climate Change


Extreme weather conditions fueled by climate change will increase food insecurity across the globe. Scientists and humanitarian groups point to events like this summer’s record breaking heat in Russia and floods in Pakistan and Canada as examples of how food stocks are likely to be affected in the coming years.

"Climate change will lead to different weather patterns, and that is what we are already seeing in many places like Pakistan and Russia. It doesn't rain the way it used to," World Water Week director Jens Berggren told AFP recently. Russia’s hottest summer on record helped fuel 600 wildfires near Moscow, which destroyed almost one-third of the countries buckwheat crop. This crop loss led the Russian government to ban wheat exports through October. In turn wheat prices rose by 15% in flood ravaged Pakistan as well as areas not affected by that particular storm system – in Mozambique prices rose so sharply there were grain riots.  

The rise in cost of Mozambique bread due to a Russian fire storm demonstrates how countries with a high risk in food insecurity (for example: Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan) are more likely to feel climate fueled food shortages first. In November 2009 a technical paper warning of climate changes affect on food security was submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change by groups like OXFAM, WHO, CARE and Save the Children.

It claimed that, “Climate change directly affects food security and nutrition. It undermines current efforts to protect the lives and livelihoods and end the suffering of the over 1 billion food insecure people and will increase the risk of hunger and malnutrition by an unprecedented scale within the next decades.” The paper also estimated that, “By 2050, the risk of hunger is projected to increase by 10 – 20 %, and child malnutrition is anticipated to be 20 % higher compared to a no-climate change scenario.” 

Trying to squelch fears the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization pointed out that world-wide 2010 brought the third largest grain harvest on record, leaving global grain stocks high. This grain surplus seemed to benefit already prosperous countries like the United States where farmers saw a record year in exports.

However, Jens Berggren points out that changing weather patterns have already resulted in smaller harvests in much of the world, “Farmers in Uganda… used to know when to sow to get the best crop, but now they can no longer predict when the rain will come, so they sow a little bit all the time to be on the safe side. They know their harvest could at any moment be washed away or dry up, so they try to spread the risk as much as possible, but this means that they get much smaller harvests than before." 

Short-term solutions for famine and rising food costs are to get relief supplies to the countries in need (I know – Duh – blame Yahoo for that.) The long-term solution is to try to prevent climate change by cutting greenhouse gas and carbon emissions (Duh again). 

Check out more on Celsias:

Solar Powered Farming

The Climate Crisis

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  • Posted on Sept. 26, 2010. Listed in:

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