"Long before it's in the papers"
January 28, 2015


Global warming to worsen malnutrition: report

Dec. 12, 2007
Courtesy FAO
and World Science staff

Ex­press­ing their “deep­est con­cern,” three U.N. agen­cies are warn­ing that cli­mate change will in­crease glob­al hun­ger and mal­nu­tri­tion un­less im­me­di­ate ac­tion is tak­en. 

The alarm was sounded as sci­en­tists warned that glob­al warm­ing may have passed a tip­ping point, with the Arc­tic Ocean melt­ing much faster than pro­jected. “The Arc­tic is scream­ing,” Mark Ser­reze of the U.S. gov­ern­men­t’s snow and ice da­ta cen­ter in Boul­der, Col­o­rad­o, told news agen­cies this week; NASA cli­mate sci­ent­ist Jay Zwally added that the Arc­tic might be nearly ice-free in five years.

The three Rome-based agen­cies—the Food and Ag­ri­cul­ture Or­gan­iz­a­tion, the World Food Pro­gramme and the In­terna­t­ional Fund for Ag­ri­cul­tur­al De­vel­op­ment—raised the hun­ger alert at the U.N. Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence in Ba­li, In­do­ne­sia. Speak­ing on be­half of the three, the Food and Ag­ri­cul­ture Or­gan­iz­a­tion’s head said ex­treme weath­er is al­ready af­fect­ing “food se­cur­ity.”

“If we do not act now, cli­mate change will in­crease the num­ber of hun­gry peo­ple in the world,” said di­rec­tor-gen­eral Jacques Diouf. “Cli­mate change is a ma­jor chal­lenge to world food se­cur­ity.” The or­gan­iz­a­tion has es­ti­mat­ed that 854 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide suf­fer from hun­ger and mal­nu­tri­tion, in­clud­ing 820 mil­lion in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. 

“Vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple and food sys­tems will be par­tic­u­larly af­fect­ed,” Diouf said. “Peo­ple who are al­ready vul­ner­a­ble and food inse­cure are likely to be­come even more so.”

Three in four of the world’s bil­lion poor­est live in ru­ral ar­eas of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and face im­me­di­ate risks from in­creased crop fail­ures and loss of live­stock, the or­gan­iz­a­tion es­ti­mates. It al­so re­ports that more than 1.5 bil­lion for­est-de­pend­ent peo­ple, also among the poor­est, are highly vul­ner­a­ble, as are 200 mil­lion peo­ple de­pend­ent on fish­er­ies.

“It is par­a­mount that we ad­dress food se­cur­ity con­cerns when dis­cussing the chal­lenges of cli­mate change,” Diouf de­clared, an­nounc­ing that the or­gan­iz­a­tion is or­ganizing a high-lev­el con­fer­ence to ad­dress the is­sues. The High-Lev­el Con­fer­ence on World Food Se­cur­ity and the Chal­lenges of Cli­mate Change and Bio­en­ergy is to be held in Rome from 3-5 June 2008.

While ef­forts must be re­dou­bled to en­sure that a grow­ing world popula­t­ion has ac­cess to suf­fi­cient, safe and nu­tri­tious food, he said, spe­cif­ic ac­tions to be tak­en in­clud­ed: early warn­ing sys­tems; adapta­t­ion strate­gies; dis­as­ter risk- re­duc­tion ac­ti­vi­ties; and hun­ger safety-net ini­tia­tives. 

Sus­tain­a­ble for­est man­age­ment al­so of­fer op­por­tun­i­ties for im­me­di­ate mitiga­t­ion and adapta­t­ion, Diouf said. Defor­esta­t­ion is re­spon­si­ble for some 17 per­cent of heat-trapping green­house gas emis­sions, so im­proved for­est man­age­ment could pro­vide “com­pre­hen­sive, rap­id and ef­fec­tive ac­tion.” Pay­ments for en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vic­es and for car­bon con­serva­t­ion and se­questra­t­ion could be made to farm­ers liv­ing in frag­ile ecosys­tems, Diouf sug­gested.

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Expressing their “deepest concern,” the three U.N. agencies are warning that climate change will increase global hunger and malnutrition unless immediate action is taken. The alarm was sounded as scientists warned that global warming may have passed a tipping point, with the Arctic Ocean melting much faster than projected. “The Arctic is screaming,” Mark Serreze of the U.S. government’s snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colorado, told news agencies, as NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally added that the Arctic might be nearly ice-free in five years. The three Rome-based agencies—the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development—issued the hunger warning at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia. Speaking on behalf of the three, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s head said extreme weather is already affecting “food security.” “If we do not act now, climate change will increase the number of hungry people in the world,” said director-general Jacques Diouf. “Climate change is a major challenge to world food security.” The organization has estimated that 854 million people worldwide suffer from hunger and malnutrition, including 820 million in developing countries. “Vulnerable people and food systems will be particularly affected,” Diouf said. “People who are already vulnerable and food insecure are likely to become even more so.” Three out of four of the world’s one billion poorest people live in rural areas of developing countries and face immediate risks from increased crop failures and loss of livestock, the organization estimates. It also reports that more than 1.5 billion forest-dependent people, among the poorest in the world, are highly vulnerable, as are 200 million people dependent on fisheries. “It is paramount that we address food security concerns when discussing the challenges of climate change,” Diouf declared, announcing that the organization is organizing a high-level conference to address the issues. The High-Level Conference on World Food Security and the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy is to be held in Rome from 3-5 June 2008. While efforts must be redoubled to ensure that a growing world population has access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, he said, specific actions to be taken included: early warning systems; adaptation strategies; disaster risk- reduction activities; and hunger safety-net initiatives. Sustainable forest management also offer opportunities for immediate mitigation and adaptation, Diouf said. Deforestation is responsible for some 17 percent of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, so improved forest management could provide “comprehensive, rapid and effective action.” Payments for environmental services and for carbon conservation and sequestration could be made to farmers living in fragile ecosystems, Diouf suggested.