Climate change will leave families caught in a vicious spiral of falling incomes, rising food prices, and declining quality of food, leading to a devastating impact on the health of millions, an Oxfam report warns.
Oxfam’s new report Growing Disruption offers an up-to-date assessment of the links between climate change and the many causes of hunger. At a time when one in eight people are going hungry and demand for food is rising, climate change will not only reduce production, it will reduce the nutritional value of both crops and livestock, worsen human health and lead to higher prices.
Climate change will mean that many more people will not be able to afford enough to eat and this toxic mix is likely to hit regions that are already more susceptible to food insecurity.
Oxfam Australia acting public policy and advocacy manager Kelly Dent said that in addition to evidence of man-made climate change becoming stronger, so too is our understanding of how it hits people, especially around hunger.
“We’ve long known that climate change will mean lost crops, but increasingly we’re seeing its impacts through higher food prices, lower earnings, more health problems and lower quality food too,” she said.
Oxfam’s report comes ahead of the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report on Friday, with final discussions between governments and scientists beginning today in Stockholm. The IPCC is expected to confirm beyond doubt that climate change is not only happening, but that it is getting worse and that humans have caused the majority of it.
The events highlighted in the report offer a glimpse of potential future impacts which will get worse and more frequent in urban as well as rural areas:
In 2012 the drought in Russia cut the grain harvest by nearly 25 per cent, causing domestic prices of grain and bread to rocket. Oxfam research shows that the cumulative effects of the 2010 and 2012 droughts have driven many farmers into significant debt.
- In Pakistan the devastating 2010 flood destroyed over 570,000 hectares of crop land in Punjab and affected more than 20 million people. The destruction of crops and drowning of animals meant not only that people had nothing to eat, but that they had nothing to trade to be able to buy food as it became available. This caused a 75 per cent reduction in income across affected households.
- A recent attribution study confirmed that the 2011 drought in East Africa which affected over 13 million people and led to a famine in Somalia was more likely to have occurred because of climate change.
Ms Dent said Australia has just experienced its warmest 12-month period since records began, and also faced the impacts of climate change on people, property and communities. The ‘angry summer’ of 2012/13 was defined by extreme weather events across Australia, including; temperature records set in every state and territory, major bushfires in Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria, and extreme rainfall in coastal Queensland and New South Wales.
“Leaders listening to the latest findings from climate scientists this week must remember that a hot world is a hungry world. They must take urgent action to slash emissions and direct more resources to building a sustainable food system,” she said.