Climate change and food security
Climate change will have a significant impact on food availability, food accessibility and food system’s stability in many parts of the world. Climate change poses a significant risk of increased crop failure, loss of livestock and impact on local food security. In some areas drier and warmer conditions are predicted, elsewhere wetter conditions are expected and will affect agricultural practices. It will affect human health and livelihoods, as well as people’s purchasing power, food markets and food security on a household level.
Most of Africa relies on rain-fed agriculture. As a result, it is highly vulnerable to changes in climate variability, seasonal shifts, and precipitation patterns. Any amount of warming will result in increased water stress. Roughly 70 percent of the population lives by farming, and 40 percent of all exports are agricultural products. One-third of the income in Africa is generated by agriculture, and crop production and livestock farming account for about half of household income. Agricultural production in many African countries and regions is projected to be severely compromised by climate variability and change areas suited for agriculture. In some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020.
In addition, natural disasters will be more intense, while pest outbreaks for both crops and livestock will become more frequent. It will change temperatures and rainfall patterns, influencing plant seasons and affecting certain crop yields. Rain-fed agriculture-based livelihood systems, like most parts of Africa, are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity.
At the same time, we need to protect forests. Forests do so much: they purify our air, improve water quality, keep soils intact, provide us with food, wood products and medicines, and are home to many of the world’s most endangered wildlife.
In fact, an estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide rely on forests for their livelihoods, including 60 million indigenous people who depend on forests for their subsistence.
Forests also help protect the planet from climate change by absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2
), a major source of pollution that causes climate change.
Unfortunately, forests are being destroyed or damaged at an alarming rate by logging and burning to clear land for agriculture or livestock. These activities release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Scientists estimate up to 20 percent of global carbon emissions come from deforestation –greater than emissions from every car, truck and plane on the planet combined. So instead of forests helping us to solve the climate crisis, deforestation is making the situation even worse.
Climate change and water
Rivers and lakes supply drinking water for people and animals, as well as being vital for agriculture and industry. Oceans and seas provide food for billions of people.
Climate change will have major and unpredictable effects on the world's water systems, including more floods and droughts. Extremes of drought and flooding will become more common, causing displacement and conflict and less fresh water means less agriculture, food and income.
Particular ‘hot spots’ include dry regions, areas highly dependent on groundwater, small island developing states, low-lying deltas and fragile mountainous areas.
Management of water resources is central to successful adaptation planning and implementation, and to building the resilience of communities and countries.
Like forests, oceans are vital ‘carbon sinks’ – they absorb huge amounts of CO2
, preventing it from reaching the upper atmosphere. But increased water temperatures and higher than normal CO2
concentrations, causing ocean acidification, are already having an impact.
Coral reefs and shellfish are particularly at risk – sensitive coral (and algae living on it) is starved of oxygen, causing dramatic bleaching and eventual death of the coral. The increasing number of tropical storms also poses a significant risk.
Climate change and energy
Energy is essential for poverty reduction, yet the means by which we have been producing energy is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. We have an obligation to provide energy to those who need it, but burning more fossil fuels in the form of coal, oil and gas is going to worsen global warming and threaten food and water security further. Changing the way we produce energy is an important way for us to tackle climate change.
To curb and control global warming, we need to keep the Earth below a 2°C (3.4°F) increase in global average temperatures compared to pre-industrial times. There are a multitude of technologies already available which can help us achieve this. By 2050, we could get all the energy we need from renewable sources. This will solve most of the problems of climate change and dwindling fossil fuel resources. We also need to increase measures to conserve energy in all sectors.
We can show that such a transition is not only possible but also cost-effective, providing energy that is affordable for all and producing it in ways that can be sustained by the global economy and the planet.
However, technologies form just one part of the jigsaw. As important is the political framework – to ensure that the relevant technologies can really thrive. Similarly, it is crucial that businesses and investors are sufficiently informed and prepared to drive forward change rather than wait until it is too late.
We need a revolution in the supply of energy to achieve this. We need to make a drastic switch from the current reliance on fossil fuel energy to a super-efficient system with new low- and zero-carbon technologies.