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Climate change is a major and growing threat to global food security
by WFP, FAO, IFPRI, IFAD, agencies
12:52am 17th Oct, 2016
Nov 2016 (WMO)
The World Meteorological Organization has published a detailed analysis of the global climate 2011-2015 – the hottest five-year period on record - and the increasingly visible human footprint on extreme weather and climate events with dangerous and costly impacts.
The record temperatures were accompanied by rising sea levels and declines in Arctic sea-ice extent, continental glaciers and northern hemisphere snow cover.
All these climate change indicators confirmed the long-term warming trend caused by greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide reached the significant milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere for the first time in 2015, according to the WMO report which was submitted to U.N. climate change conference.
The Global Climate 2011-2015 also examines whether human-induced climate change was directly linked to individual extreme events. Of 79 studies published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society between 2011 and 2014, more than half found that human-induced climate change contributed to the extreme event in question. Some studies found that the probability of extreme heat increased by 10 times or more.
“The Paris Agreement aims at limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2 ° Celsius and pursuing efforts towards 1.5 ° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This report confirms that the average temperature in 2015 had already reached the 1°C mark. We just had the hottest five-year period on record, with 2015 claiming the title of hottest individual year. Even that record is likely to be beaten in 2016,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
“The effects of climate change have been consistently visible on the global scale since the 1980s: rising global temperature, both over land and in the ocean; sea-level rise; and the widespread melting of ice. It has increased the risks of extreme events such as heatwaves, drought, record rainfall and damaging floods,” said Mr Taalas.
The report highlighted some of the high-impact events. These included the East African drought in 2010-2012 which caused an estimated 258,000 excess deaths and the 2013-2015 southern African drought; flooding in South-East Asia in 2011 which killed 800 people and caused more than US$40 billion in economic losses, 2015 heatwaves in India and Pakistan in 2015, which claimed more than 4,100 lives; Hurricane Sandy in 2012 which caused US$67 billion in economic losses in the United States of America, and Typhoon Haiyan which killed 7,800 people in the Philippines in 2013.
The report was submitted to the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The five-year timescale allows a better understanding of multi-year warming trends and extreme events such as prolonged droughts and recurrent heatwaves than an annual report.
Oct 2016
Climate change could drive 122 million more people into extreme poverty by 2030. (FAO)
Climate change is “a major and growing threat to global food security”, highlights a new report, warning that it could increase the global population living in extreme poverty by up to 122 million by 2030, with farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa among the hardest hit.
The 2016 State of Food and Agriculture report, published by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, calls for “deep transformations in agriculture and food systems” and for the world’s half-billion small-scale farms to receive particular support.
The report warns that without “widespread adoption of sustainable land, water, fisheries and forestry practices, global poverty cannot be eradicated”.
It adds that action must also be taken to reduce farming’s own contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
The 194-page report looks at the future of farming and food security under different climate change scenarios. It also looks at possible responses to what it calls “an unprecedented double challenge” to eradicate hunger and poverty and stabilise the global climate.
There is, it says, “no doubt that climate change will affect the agriculture sectors and food security and that its negative impact will become more severe as it accelerates. In some particularly vulnerable places, such as small islands or in areas affected by large-scale extreme weather and climate events, the impact could be catastrophic.”
In a best-case scenario, slow-moving climate change would allow farming to adapt through relatively simple techniques, at least in the near future. But it warns that more abrupt changes would make adequate adaptation almost impossible.
Possible consequences include major declines in crop yields and increasingly high and volatile food prices, it says. “In the longer run, unless measures are put in place to halt and reverse climate change, food production could become impossible in large areas of the world.”
The report cites diversifying crop production, better integration of farming with the natural habitat, agroecology and “sustainable intensification” as strategies to help small-scale farmers adapt to a warming world.
It says some current policies, including subsidies for inputs such as synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, could hinder the adoption of more sustainable techniques.
“Social protection programmes will need to play an important role – in helping smallholders better manage risk, reducing vulnerability to food price volatility, and enhancing the employment prospects of rural people who leave the land,” it adds.
The report comes as delegates arrive in Rome for the 43rd Committee on World Food Security meetings. FAO’s director general, José Graziano da Silva, warned: “Higher temperatures and erratic weather patterns are already undermining the health of soils, forests and oceans on which agricultural sectors and food security depend. We have seen an increase of pest and disease outbreaks everywhere.”
In a special message, Pope Francis said the world should draw on “the wisdom of rural communities” and “a style of life that can help defend us from the logic of consumerism and production at any cost, a logic that is aimed solely at the increase in profit”.
Technologies including genetic modification “may give excellent results in the laboratory, may be advantageous for some, but have ruinous effects for others”, he argued.
Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme, said: “Climate change is already stretching the international humanitarian system, more than 80% of the world’s hungry live in areas prone to natural disasters and environmental degradation. Climate change is not waiting – neither can we.”
Until 2030, says the FAO report, climate change impacts will produce both gains and losses, with crop yields increasing in colder places, for example. After 2030, negative impacts could threaten farming and food systems in every region of the world.
In September 2015, UN member states agreed to eradicate extreme poverty and end hunger by 2030 as part of the sustainable development goals.
In December, world leaders signed the Paris agreement, which sets a framework for national action and international cooperation on climate change.
The FAO report argues that now is the time for these political commitments to be put into action.
The report notes that agriculture and related land use alone accounts for at least one-fifth of global greenhouse-gas emissions – and that this must also be addressed.
Globally, about one-third of all food produced is also lost or wasted. Reducing this figure could limit farming’s impact on natural resources and emissions, it says.
‘Business as usual’ is not an option,'''' stressed Graziano da Silva in a foreword to the report. “Agriculture has always been the interface between natural resources and human activity. Today it holds the key to solving the two greatest challenges facing humanity: eradicating poverty, and maintaining the stable climatic corridor in which civilisation can thrive.”
* Access FAO State of Food and Agriculture publication, devoted to the theme “Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security”:
16 October 2016
Only by working in partnership will we achieve a world free from poverty.
To mark World Food Day 2016, the United Nations is highlighting the close links between climate change, sustainable agriculture, and food and nutrition security, with the message: “The climate is changing. Food and agriculture must, too.”
“As the global population expands, we will need to satisfy an increasing demand for food,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“Yet, around the world, record-breaking temperatures, rising sea levels and more frequent and severe droughts and floods caused by climate change are already affecting ecosystems, agriculture and society''s ability to produce the food we need”.
Mr. Ban pointed out that the most vulnerable people are world''s poorest, 70 per cent of whom depend on subsistence farming, fishing or pastoralism for income and food.
“Without concerted action, millions more people could fall into poverty and hunger, threatening to reverse hard-won gains and placing in jeopardy our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he emphasized.
The UN chief, highlighted that agriculture and food systems must become more resilient, productive, inclusive and sustainable.
“To bolster food security in a changing climate countries must address food and agriculture in their climate action plans and invest more in rural development.”
Targeted investments in these sectors will build resilience and increase the incomes and productivity of small farmers – lifting millions from poverty.
“They will help to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and safeguard the health and well-being of ecosystems and all people who depend on them, underscored Mr. Ban.
Next month, the Paris Agreement on climate change will enter into force – providing a much-needed boost to global efforts to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions, limit temperature rise and promote climate-compatible sustainable agriculture.
“On this World Food Day, I urge all Governments and their partners to take a holistic, collaborative and integrated approach to climate change, food security and equitable social and economic development,” stressed Mr. Ban.
“The well-being of this generation and those to come depends on the actions we take now. Only by working in partnership will we achieve a world of zero hunger and free from poverty, where all people can live in peace, prosperity and dignity”.
The Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin said that climate change was already stretching the international humanitarian system financially and operationally, “so moving beyond disaster relief to managing risk is an urgent task for all of us. Climate change is not waiting, neither can we."
Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) underlined the need to bolster rural smallholder producers against the impacts of climate change:
“Food is the most basic human right”, by José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
Food is the most basic human right yet at least 800 million people still suffer from hunger in the world.
Without food security and adequate nutrition for all, sustainable development simply cannot be achieved.
This is why the 2030 Agenda calls for the eradication of hunger and all forms of malnutrition, as well as the promotion of sustainable agriculture.
But these objectives are clearly at risk, as climate change advances.
Higher temperatures and erratic weather patterns are already undermining the health of soils, forests and oceans on which agricultural sectors and food security depend.
We have seen an increase of pest and disease outbreaks everywhere.
Droughts and floods are more frequent and intense. We have seen first-hand their terrible impacts in the past months, as El Niño hit Africa, Asia and other parts such as the Dry Corridor of Central America.
We have also just witnessed the extensive damage caused by hurricane Matthew in Haiti.
Natural disasters and extreme weather events like this are more likely to happen and yet more difficult to predict.
As usual, the poorest and the hungry suffer the most.
The vast majority of them are small holders and family farmers that live in rural areas of developing countries.
They are the least equipped to deal with the threats. Even under normal circumstances, these people barely manage to survive.
Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly indicate that the impacts on agriculture will be felt more in areas with marginal production.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change calls for action in this regard. It recognizes the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change.
World Food Day 2016 highlights that the climate is changing, and food and agriculture must change too.
FAO’s vision is that climate change, extreme poverty and hunger must be addressed together. And sustainable agriculture is key to doing so.
Agricultural activities that are resilient and result in the sustainable management of natural resources can deliver the transformative change we so urgently need.
We cannot avoid a drought from happening, but we can avoid a drought resulting in famine. We can build cisterns, reduce the use of water, prevent waste and plant drought-resistant crops.
Water management is today one of the main challenges for sustainable agriculture, and will be even more so in the future.
Adaptation to climate change is fundamental. Farmers, especially poor small holders and family farmers, need to adjust their production systems and practices to meet the new challenging conditions. To meet what we call the “new normal”.
This requires much better access to appropriate technologies, knowledge, markets, information and investments.
We need to promote innovation and explore all approaches and techniques available, such as agroecology.
Social protection programmes are also essential. They boost local food demand and reduce the vulnerability of poor rural people to shocks and price volatility.
Increasing productivity will be important to feed a growing population expected to reach more than 9 billion people in 2050. But it is also important to reduce food loss and waste and promote sustainable food systems.
Let’s not forget that nowadays we produce enough food to feed the current global population, but hundreds of millions of tons of food are either lost or wasted every year.
This means that natural resources have been depleted in vain. And this is unacceptable.
When we talk about building resilience in agriculture, climate change adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same coin.
In fact, as we adapt, based on environmentally friendly techniques such as climate smart agriculture, we are also mitigating the impacts of climate change. And vice-versa.
Agriculture accounts today for around 20 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. The sector presents great potential for limiting the rise of global average temperature as determined by the Paris Agreement.
Countries are recognizing this. Out of the 188 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, 94 percent of them included agriculture in their mitigation and adaptation plans. FAO is already supporting countries to implement their pledges.
We cannot allow the impacts of climate change to overshadow our vision of a world free of hunger and malnutrition, where food and agriculture contribute to improving the living standards of all, especially the poorest. No one can be left behind.
Oct 2016
Countries must accelerate the pace at which they are reducing hunger - International Food Policy Research Institute
Hunger levels in a number of developing countries have fallen since 2000, but efforts to curb hunger must be accelerated in order to meet the international target to eradicate it by 2030, according to an annual index published this week.
Hunger levels are "alarming" in seven countries, with Central African Republic (CAR), Chad and Zambia experiencing the worst levels, according to the 2016 Global Hunger Index.
Haiti, reeling from last week''s Hurricane Matthew and still recovering from a massive 2010 earthquake, has the fourth highest hunger score.
Another 43 countries, including India, Nigeria and Indonesia, have "serious" hunger levels.
At the current rate of decline, more than 45 countries - including India, Pakistan, Haiti, Yemen, and Afghanistan - will have "moderate" to "alarming" hunger scores in the year 2030, the authors of the index said.
"Countries must accelerate the pace at which they are reducing hunger" if they are to meet the 2030 target, Shenggen Fan, director general of the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said.
"Ending global hunger is certainly possible, but it''s up to all of us.. to set the priorities right to ensure that governments, the private sector and civil society devote the time and resources necessary," Fan added.
World leaders agreed a 2030 deadline for ending global hunger last year as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - a globally agreed plan for tackling poverty, hunger and inequality.
IFPRI produces the annual index along with aid agencies Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
Overall, at least 795 million people go to bed hungry every night.
"We have the technology, knowledge and resources to achieve zero hunger. What is missing is both the urgency and the political will to turn commitments into action," said Dominic MacSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide.
The hunger index ranks countries based on undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting (low weight for height) and child stunting (low height for age). The 2016 report ranked 118 developing countries.
Nearly half the population in CAR and Zambia, and one in three people in Chad, are undernourished, it showed. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest hunger levels, followed closely by South Asia.
"Too many people are hungry today. There is a need for urgent, thoughtful and innovative action to ensure that no one ever goes hungry again," said David Nabarro, special adviser to the U.N. secretary-general on the SDGs.
* Access the Global Hunger Index via the link below.
Sep 2016
Devastating impact of El Nino and Climate requires new response model, by Mary Robinson. (UN Special Envoy on El Niño & Climate)
This El Niño is a huge Humanitarian Crisis - But it didn’t have to be, write UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoys on El Niño and Climate: Mary Robinson, Ambassador Macharia Kamau; and Oxfam International Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima.
As a weather phenomenon, El Niño is a complex concept to grasp. Cyclical ocean temperature changes affect other weather patterns in complicated ways, resulting in drought, floods and more severe storms. To further complicate matters, El Niño is now also interacting with climate change in ways that we do not fully understand.
But when you look a mother in the eye as she tells you that she can’t feed her baby due to the drought, El Niño’s human cost is suddenly very clear. And when you remember that this mother is one of more than 60 million people affected by the 2015-2016 El Niño, it’s clear that we are watching a massive but neglected humanitarian crisis unfold.
Over the past six months we have met with communities in dusty villages in Ethiopia, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, just some of the dozens of countries around the world that have been most affected by El Niño-linked drought and other environmental impacts.
Women like Victoria Sánchez Pérez in Honduras have told us that when her family’s corn crops failed due to the drought, it meant they suddenly had no food or source of income. Now Victoria and her family are faced with selling literally all of their belongings in order to pay for food.
A lack of food or clean water affects every aspect of a person’s life
In East and Southern Africa, some one million children already require treatment for severe acute malnutrition due to El Niño-linked drought. For these children access to treatment is literally a matter of life or death.
Water shortages have also caused movements of people across arid regions in search of basic needs, disrupting education and livelihoods and creating greater protection risks.
Women and girls are disproportionately affected as they are often responsible for fetching water, and may have to travel longer distances and take on greater risks, making them susceptible to exploitation in return for food.
Schools are closing; dehydrated or sick students are unable to focus on their studies. Malnutrition-linked stunting in childhood can also affect lifelong development and wellbeing.
Poverty, inequality, competition over scarce natural resources and instability will likely deepen the crisis, threatening human security, undermining the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and undoing hard-won development gains.
Significant funding gaps remain
Donors and many national governments of affected countries have contributed generously but significant funding gaps remain. Five billion dollars is needed to address this urgent humanitarian crisis - but less than two billion has been received. In practical terms a funding gap of this size means that far too many people will be going hungry and thirsty; far too many people will not have the support they so badly need.
El Niño-affected communities must not be forgotten. They need immediate and intensified assistance that takes into account long-term impacts.
Tomorrow’s problem may be even worse.
As we have travelled to these countries and met with communities, governments and those providing assistance, the thing that’s weighed most heavily on our minds is that this devastating El Niño is just a glimpse of what is yet to come.
The 2015/2016 El Niño was a window into a climate future that is less predictable and more extreme. Although El Niño is not caused by climate change the two are locked in a deadly dance, stepping in time as human-induced climate change continues its march.
We must do everything possible to drastically reduce the fossil fuel emissions that are driving the climate crisis. This means urgent mitigation action by developed countries and provision of the necessary financial support to ensure that developing countries can develop without emissions.
But even if we are successful, future weather events like El Niño and its equally troublesome sister La Niña will be more frequent and severe than ever before.
This ‘new normal’ demands a different way of doing things, both in our actions to reduce and adapt to the impacts of climate change, but also in the ways that we prepare for, and respond to, these climate-linked threats.
If we fail to do this, already vulnerable communities will become trapped in a never-ending cycle of environmental shocks and partial recovery.
The bottom line is this; when communities require humanitarian assistance for predictable weather events it means our resilience building and preparedness efforts have not succeeded. Communities are telling us that El Niño, La Niña and other weather events should not just be about humanitarian response, the focus should also be on risk-informed development that prioritises prevention, resilience and preparedness.
All the evidence tells that this type of early action works, and that it provides exponential returns in terms of human dignity, safety and wellbeing, as well as countries’ overall economic and social development.
In order to help communities prepare for, and respond to, this new climate reality, we need to look closely at the way that we operate as an international community. Donors, the UN, NGOs, civil society and communities themselves must work in partnership with national governments of affected countries.
We collectively must break this cycle - and we can. We know what needs to be done to prevent droughts and other weather threats from becoming disasters. We have the technical know-how. And now we are building the political will.
It is likely that the next climate-linked humanitarian disaster will be upon us even before communities have recovered from El Niño. Our development and humanitarian systems need to be climate-proofed and fit for purpose. If we fail to act now we will be letting down our most vulnerable communities and undermining the foundation principle of the Sustainable Development Goals - of no one left behind.
We have a moral duty to ensure that children and vulnerable communities are not devastated by the effects of El Niño. If we do not succeed in our mission we will be letting down those that need us most and the impacts will be felt for generations.

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