Climate taxes on agriculture could lead to more food insecurity than climate change itself

July 31, 2018, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

New IIASA-led research has found that a single climate mitigation scheme applied to all sectors, such as a global carbon tax, could have a serious impact on agriculture and result in far more widespread hunger and food insecurity than the direct impacts of climate change. Smarter, more inclusive policies are needed instead.

The research, published in Nature Climate Change, is the first international study to compare across models the effects of on with the costs and effects of policies, and look at subsequent effects on food security and the risk of hunger.

The researchers, led by Tomoko Hasegawa, a researcher at IIASA and Japan's National Institute for Environment Studies (NIES), and Shinichiro Fujimori, a IIASA researcher and associate professor at Kyoto University, summarized the output of eight global agricultural models to analyze various scenarios through 2050. These covered different socioeconomic development pathways, including one in which the world pursues sustainability, and one in which the world follows current development trends, different levels of global warming, and whether or not climate mitigation policies were employed.

By 2050, the models suggest that climate change could be responsible for putting an extra 24 million people at risk of hunger on average, with some models suggesting up to 50 million extra could be at risk. However, if agriculture is included in very stringent climate mitigation schemes, such as a global carbon tax or a comprehensive trading system applying the same rules to all sectors of the economy, the increase in food prices would be such that 78 million more people would be at risk of hunger, with some models finding that up to 170 million more would be at risk.

Some areas are likely to be much more vulnerable than others, such as sub-Saharan Africa and India.

There is a growing consensus that agriculture, one of the world's major greenhouse gas emitters, must do more to share the burden of carbon emissions reduction. The new research shows that without careful planning, the burden of mitigation policies is simply too great. All the models showed that deploying measures such as a carbon tax raises the cost of food production. This can be directly, through taxes on direct agricultural emissions, and taxes on emissions resulting from land use change, such as converting forest to expand agricultural land, and indirectly, through the increased demands for biofuel, which competes with food production for land.

The researchers stress that their results should not be used to argue against greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts. Climate mitigation efforts are vital. Instead, the research shows the importance of "smart," targeted design, particularly in agriculture. When designing mitigation policies, policymakers need to scrutinize other factors and development goals more closely, rather than focusing only on the goal of reducing emissions.

"The findings are important to help realize that agriculture should receive a very specific treatment when it comes to ," says Hasegawa. "Carbon pricing schemes will not bring any viable options for developing countries where there are highly vulnerable populations. Mitigation in agriculture should instead be integrated with development policies."

The researchers suggest, for example, schemes encouraging more productive and resilient agricultural systems. The developing world's ruminant livestock herds produce three-quarters of the world's ruminant greenhouse gases, but only half of its milk and beef. Using efficient techniques and technology from the developed world would simultaneously reduce , promote economic growth, reduce poverty (thereby improving health and living conditions), and improve food security. Another suggestion is complementary policies to counteract the impact of mitigation policies on vulnerable regions, for example, money raised from carbon taxes could be used for food aid programs in particularly hard-hit areas or countries.

"As agriculture is more and more directly associated with the discussion on global mitigation efforts, we hope the paper will show that differentiated solutions need to be found for this sector. As countries are all working at defining emission reduction pathways within the context of the Paris Agreement, it serves as a warning that other development objectives should be kept in mind to choose the right path towards sustainability," says IIASA researcher and coauthor Hugo Valin.

Explore further: Win-win strategies for climate and food security

More information: Tomoko Hasegawa et al, Risk of increased food insecurity under stringent global climate change mitigation policy, Nature Climate Change (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0230-x

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dogbert
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 31, 2018
Climate taxes on agriculture could lead to more food insecurity than climate change itself


Is the term "climate taxes" going to be the next iteration of "carbon taxes"?

"Anthropogenic global warming" morphed into "climate change" when it was felt that "climate change" would be more acceptable than "global warming". Is "climate taxes" more acceptable than "carbon taxes"?

Changing the name, of course, does not change the action. The not so hidden force behind global warming or climate change policies has always been and remains the redistribution of resources -- tax the wealthy and redistribute those taxes. Carbon taxes have been inextricably entangled in every aspect of climate change mitigation.

One of the main reasons people do not wholeheartedly believe in anthropogenic global warming is that the science is not being presented as fact, but as a method of redistribution of wealth -- socialism.

grandpa
1 / 5 (2) Jul 31, 2018
It is relatively easy to see that carbon dioxide can affect climate. It is difficult to determine if this affect is good or bad. It is impossible to legislate a change that can lower carbon dioxide levels without devastating everything else. It is up to individuals to design better systems and individuals to change their lifestyles. Don't worry, everything will be okay for at least this problem. Scientists are well on their way to designing better systems that we will not be able to resist.
barakn
5 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2018
"Anthropogenic global warming" morphed into "climate change" when it was felt that "climate change" would be more acceptable than "global warming".
No. 'Climate change' was simply more precise. While the average global temperature is rising and in most areas the average temp is rising, in a certain minority of areas the average temperature will go down. Also, in many areas, the variability in temperatures is going to increase, with slight lower lows and much bigger highs than before. The term 'climate change' captures this variability better than does 'global warming.'
dogbert
2 / 5 (4) Jul 31, 2018
barakn,
No. The term "climate change" is not more precise. That term is intentionally vague. Climate has changed since the earth was created.

Human mediated global warming or anthropogenic global warming is far more precise and descriptive. We stopped using such descriptive terms because the vague "climate change" was considered more acceptable.

When you want to sell something, you choose words which are less likely to evoke resistance.
TheMuffinMan
3 / 5 (2) Jul 31, 2018
You mean to say that we might over-react to changing situations in our environment?! Whattttt? since when? That doesn't sound like humans at all.
barakn
5 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2018
barakn,
No. The term "climate change" is not more precise. That term is intentionally vague. Climate has changed since the earth was created.

Strawman argument. Climate scientists have never claimed that the climate never changed in the past. The question is not "is the climate changing?" but "how fast is the climate changing?" The rate of change will determine whether human and biological communities can adapt.
Benni
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2018
Taxes have now been conclusively tied to death, death by hunger & hunger by taxes. What goes around comes around.
Old_C_Code
1 / 5 (2) Aug 01, 2018
The real issue is what does a human made 30% increase in CO2 do to the climate? We know now temperature is not (very) proportional to CO2's increase. The question is, how does a 30% increase in CO2 effect the climate?
Benni
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 01, 2018
The real issue is what does a human made 30% increase in CO2 do to the climate? We know now temperature is not (very) proportional to CO2's increase. The question is, how does a 30% increase in CO2 effect the climate?


A 30% increase in taxes?
EnricM
5 / 5 (1) Aug 01, 2018
Taxes on agriculture? Sounds odd to speak about taxes in relation to a sector that is actually where _our_ tax money goes to: To agricultural subsidies from the EU and the US government, to such extent that the average Dutch or British farmer receives 60 cents of each Euro from subsidies.

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