Climate Threatens Food Supply

Jan 23rd, 2014 | By | Category: Food, Information and Communication, News

9415434Climate change will play havoc with farming, and policymakers and researchers aren’t fully aware of the significance for food supply, the World Bank says.

The planet will warm by two degrees Celsius “in your lifetime,” Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s vicepresident for climate change, said at a meeting of agriculture ministers in Berlin over the weekend. That will make farming untenable in some areas, she said.

Extreme weather – from China’s coldest winter in at least half a century in 2010 to a July hailstorm in Reutlingen, Germany – already started to affect food prices. In the past three years, orange juice, corn, wheat, soybean meal and sugar were five of the eight most volatile commodities, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Natural gas was first.

“Significant damage and destruction is already happening,” Kyte said. “It isn’t a benign and slightly warmer world. It will be a volatile warming of the planet, with unpredictable impact.”

Adapting agriculture to withstand a world with a changed climate and depleting resources isn’t happening fast enough, says Achim Steiner, the director general of the UN’s environment program.

The world risks “cataclysmic changes” caused by extreme heat waves, rising sea levels and depleted food stocks, as average temperatures head for a four-degree jump by 2100, the World Bank reported in November 2012.

“It’s all going to take political leadership,” said Gordon Conway, professor of international development at Imperial College London. “We need more ministers of agriculture with self-confidence who will stand up and say what they need, who will speak to their president or prime minster.”

Long-term climate change may have “potentially catastrophic” effects on food production between 2050 and 2100, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has said.

Crop failures, such as the one in Russia in 2010, are likely to become more common as climate change causes more extreme weather with heat and drought stress, according to a study that year, led by the U.K.’s University of Leeds.

“If we look globally at climate science, we see the warming of temperatures and the resulting impact, for example extreme heat zones in sub-Saharan Africa,” Kyte said. “The agricultural community has still some way to go in realizing the full significance.”

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