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Climate change could devastate lives and livelihoods strongly linked to crop and livestock yields–Polly Ericksen

Polly Ericksen

ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen says that areas that will be hit hardest by climate change are areas where farmers are already struggling due to new weather patterns (image credit: ILRI/Anita Ghosh).

Julio Godoy reported yesterday in Inter Press Service Africa (IPS) on the climate change meeting in Bonn, saying that climate change is putting African agriculture and food supply at risk.

‘Climate change and global warming are likely to have dramatically negative effects on African agriculture and food supply by reducing river runoffs and water recharge, especially in semi-arid zones such as Southern Africa, two new reports say.

‘Both studies were released while thousands of delegates from around the world gathered June 6–17 in the German city of Bonn to take part in the new United Nations (UN) Climate Change conference. New research supports the need for a revamped international regime of reduction of greenhouse gases emissions, the main cause of global warming.

‘The first study, “Climate change, water, and food security” by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) constitutes a comprehensive survey of existing scientific knowledge on the anticipated consequences of climate change for water use in agriculture. . . .

‘The talks in Bonn are in preparation of yet another climate change global summit in Durban, South Africa, in December.

‘Initially, it was expected that the Durban summit would ratify a new international regime on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in industrialised countries, and set up a financial plan to pay for climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in developing countries.

‘This new regime is expected to come into force starting 2013, after the present Kyoto protocol measures expire 2012. But the talks in Bonn, the last round of negotiations before the summit of Durban, have not produced any significant advances. . . .

‘The second study, by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in cooperation with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), comes to similar predictions, and warns that climate change is likely to cause widespread famines in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia by destroying the basis of local agriculture.

‘The report reiterates that food security outcomes differ according to socio-economic and gender characteristics, including wealth, age and status in the household. The latter is affected by whether you are a woman or a man.

‘”We are starting to see much more clearly where the effect of climate change on agriculture could intensify hunger and poverty”, in Africa and other parts of the developing word, Patti Kristjanson, a scientist at CGIAR’s research programme on climate change, agriculture and food security, said during the presentation of the study.

‘The report, “Mapping hotspots of climate change and food insecurity in the global tropics”, identified regions of intense climate change and agricultural vulnerability by examining a variety of climate models and indicators of food problems.

‘The authors then created a series of detailed maps of the tropical regions of the world, based on those data.

‘”‘When you put these maps together you immediately identify the regions around the world, in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, where the arrival of stressful growing conditions (due to climate change) could be especially disastrous,” Polly Ericksen, a senior scientist at ILRI, and the study’s lead author, said.

‘”These are areas highly exposed to climate shifts, where survival is strongly linked to the fate of regional crop and livestock yields, and where chronic food problems indicate that farmers are already struggling and they lack the capacity to adapt to new weather patterns,” Ericksen said.’

Read the whole article in IPS: CLIMATE CHANGE: African Agriculture and Food Supply at Risk, 18 June 2001.

Read an ILRI News Blog story on the ILRI-CCAFS report: In the crosshairs of hunger and climate change: New ILRI-CCAFS study maps the global hotspots, 3 June 2011.

Read the report itself: Mapping hotspots of climate change and food insecurity in the global tropics, by Polly Ericksen, Philip Thornton, An Notenbaert, L Cramer, Peter Jones and Mario Herrero 2011. CCAFS Report no. 5 (advance copy). CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Copenhagen, Denmark. Also available online at: www.ccafs.cgiar.org.

Click here for the CCAFS online media room with more materials, including versions of the news release in English, Spanish, French and Chinese, and also versions of the two maps shown here in high resolution suitable for print media.

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