UN panel: Warming worsens food, hunger problems

Mar 31, 2014 by Seth Borenstein

Global warming makes feeding the world harder and more expensive, a United Nations scientific panel said.

A warmer world will push higher, trigger "hotspots of hunger" among the world's poorest people, and put the crunch on Western delights like fine wine and robust coffee, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in a 32-volume report issued Monday.

"We're facing the specter of reduced yields in some of the key crops that feed humanity," panel chairman Rajendra Pachauri said in press conference releasing the report.

Even though heat and carbon dioxide are often considered good for plants, the overall effect of various aspects of man-made warming is that it will reduce food production compared to a world without , the report said.

The last time the panel reported on the effects of warming in 2007, it said it was too early to tell whether would increase or decrease food production, and many skeptics talked of a greening world. But in the past several years the scientific literature has been overwhelming in showing that climate change hurts food production, said Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution of Science and lead author of the .

But this doesn't mean in 50 years there will be less food grown. Thanks to the "green revolution" of improved agricultural techniques, is growing about 10 percent per decade and climate change is likely to reduce yields by 1 percent a decade, so crop production will still go up, but not as fast, said David Lobell of Stanford University, one of the authors of the report's chapter on food problems.

Still, it is as if an anchor is weighing down the improvements to agriculture, Pachauri and Field said. Some places have seen crop yield increases drop from 2 percent a year to 1 percent or even plateau. And places like India, where 800 million people rely on rainfall not irrigation, the never improved crops much, Pachauri said.

Although changes in rainfall hurt, mostly the problem will be too much heat, Lobell said. "No place is immune," he said.

Food prices are likely to go up somewhere in a wide range of 3 percent to 84 percent by 2050 just because of climate change, the report said.

"In a world where a billion people are already going hungry, this makes it harder for more people to feed their families," said Tim Gore of Oxfam International, who wasn't part of this study.

While some crops may do slightly better, staples like wheat and corn will be hurt, the Nobel Prize-winning panel of scientists said. The report specifically mentions warming squeezing out crops in some of the richer coffee-growing areas in Central and South America, apple orchards in eastern Washington and cherry orchards in California.

And where you get your wine may be changing. Both quantity and quality of wine can be hurt in much of Europe, the United States and Australia, but Portugal and British Columbia in Canada may become better places for wine, the said.

It's not just crops on land. A warmer and more acidic ocean is changing where fish live, making them harder to catch, and making it harder to feed people who rely on fish, Pachauri said.

Explore further: UN panel: Eight reasons to worry about global warming

More information: Climate change: regional impact: phys.org/news/2014-03-climate-regional-impact.html

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: www.ipcc.ch

1.8 /5 (5 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Big climate report: Warming is big risk for people

Mar 24, 2014

Top climate scientists are gathering in Japan this week to finish up a report on the impact of global warming. And they say if you think climate change is only faced by some far-off polar bear decades from ...

UN science report: Warming worsens security woes

Mar 30, 2014

In an authoritative report due out Monday a United Nations climate panel for the first time is connecting hotter global temperatures to hotter global tempers. Top scientists are saying that climate change ...

Recommended for you

Nicaragua: Studies say canal impact to be minimal

3 hours ago

Officials said Thursday that studies have determined a $40 billion inter-oceanic canal across Nicaragua will have minimal impact on the environment and society, and construction is to begin next month.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

orti
3 / 5 (6) Mar 31, 2014
"UN panel: Warming worsens food, hunger problems"
Wrong again Seth. Limiting economic development as the CAGW people propose is what is harmful.
"James Lovelock: environmentalism has become a religion
Scientist behind the Gaia hypothesis says environment movement does not pay enough attention to facts and he was too certain in the past about rising temperatures"
ryggesogn2
2.7 / 5 (7) Mar 31, 2014
So does socialism.
Valenzuela, Zimbabwe, ...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.