A major new scientific assessment released today by the UN’s top climate scientists presents climate change not as a distant, future threat to food availability, but as a clear and present danger that highlights a major reversal in the fight against hunger.
The IPCC’s final report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, released today in Japan, identifies food security in both poor countries and wealthier ones as being at risk, with the findings showing Australian agriculture as vulnerable to climate change.
The report states that declining freshwater resources in many parts of Australia will particularly impact upon irrigation-dependent crops like rice and sugarcane. The effect of a three degree centigrade increase in temperatures would be a four per cent reduction in the value of the beef, sheep and wool sector. A temperature rise of as little as one degree centigrade by 2030 would see a projected decline in dairy output in all regions of Australia except Tasmania.
Oxfam Australia Climate Change specialist Dr Simon Bradshaw said climate change was already making it harder for millions around the world to feed their families and today’s report shows this is likely to get harder, both in Australia and overseas.
Without urgent action by developed countries both to reduce emissions and support communities with adapting to those impacts that can no longer be avoided, climate change is set to reverse progress towards ending global hunger.
“The report is in and the message is clear: the impact of climate change on food is worse than previously estimated,” Dr Bradshaw said.
“In their previous report in 2007, the IPCC was sanguine about how climate change is hitting harvests. This report is categorical that climate change has already meant significant declines in net global yields of staple crops like wheat and maize.
“Climate change will continue to hit crop harvests hard in the future, at the same time as demand for food is increasing. You don’t need to be a climate scientist to know that falling crop yields and rising demand does not add up to a food secure future on this planet.
“For the first time, the IPCC has also recognised that more extreme weather means we face more extreme food prices. The new story of climate impacts on food is not only about small-scale farmers in poor countries, but about how major crop exporters, global food prices and millions more people in rural and urban areas around the world are affected.
“The IPCC has acknowledged for the first time that there is major shortfall in funding to support vulnerable communities adapt to climate change. Oxfam estimates poor countries received just two per cent of their adaptation funding needs from rich countries in the three years since the Copenhagen climate summit, where substantial support was promised.
“The report is also clear that there are limits to adaptation, so we must slash our greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. Cutting emissions is vital to fighting hunger.
“Without urgent action on adaptation and emissions reduction, the goal of ensuring every person has enough to eat may be lost forever. Political leaders reading this report should ask themselves whether this will be the generation to let that happen,” Dr Bradshaw said.