Africa / Asia / CCAFS / CGIAR / Climate Change / Food Security / Latin America

‘Globe faces daunting task’–Climate change researcher Bruce Campbell

Science News reports this week that the prices of global food prices are rising along with global temperatures and that global warming may have already begun outpacing the ability of farmers to adapt.

‘Since summer, signs of severe food insecurity—droughts, food riots, five- to tenfold increases in produce costs—have erupted around the globe. Several new reports now argue that regionally catastrophic crop failures—largely due to heat stress—are signals that global warming may have begun outpacing the ability of farmers to adapt.

‘Some one billion people already suffer serious malnutrition. That number could mushroom, the new reports argue, if governments big and small don’t begin heeding warning signs like spikes in the price of food staples. . . .

‘Food prices offer a good proxy for agriculture’s health, notes Gerald Nelson, an economist with the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C. Rising prices signal increasing resource scarcity, he explains, which can be triggered by expanding populations, growing incomes (because people can afford more and better food) and declining crop yields. . . . Nelson and his colleagues have now used computer models to get some grasp on how crop yields and prices might respond, several decades out, to Earth’s continuing low-grade fever. . . . [I]n contrast to the 20th century, when food prices fell, the 21st century would see prices rise. Probably by a lot.

‘Even with today’s climate, food prices would rise over the next 40 years in response to pressures from growing populations and incomes. Rice prices, for instance, would increase roughly 11 to 55 percent. Throw in additional warming and prices can rise substantially more — a minimum of 31 percent for rice and perhaps a doubling for corn.

‘”The analyses clearly point to “climate change as a threat-multiplier,” concludes Nelson. His team unveiled its findings December 1 in a report prepared for release at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Cancun, Mexico. . . .

‘”The globe essentially faces a daunting task in terms of climate change,” notes Bruce Campbell, director of a Copenhagen-based climate and food program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. Worldwide rates of hunger and malnutrition are already “unacceptable,” he notes. Yet despite climate’s immense impacts on food production, agriculture remains largely ignored in international negotiations of climate and emissions policies.“What we’re hoping,” Campbell says, “is that agriculture gets put on the agenda.”’

Read the whole article at Science NewsFood security wanes as world warms, 1 December 2010.

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