Climate change, food crisis linked

Published in Broadsheet -“The Vantage Point”, MOP Vaishnav college for women

The global food crisis will only worsen because of climate change, the U.N. climate chief says, urging leaders of the world’s richest countries to set goals to reduce carbon emissions within the next dozen years.

Food security and soaring oil prices are likely to overtake climate change. Food and global warming are interconnected. They are not competing with each other on the international agenda.

Today 90 per cent of food crisis issue is tied to the effect of climate change because of the low land areas. If we consider rice production, a lot of production suffer flooding because the ice and whole lot of that are melting and when the ice is melting, the sea levels are also rising. When the sea levels rise, all of the low lands and coastal areas are subjected to flooding, this in turn helps in washing away crops and that is what is contributing to the current global food crisis.

Continued growth of the middle class in China and India, the push for renewable fuels and anticipated damage to agricultural production caused by global warming mean that food prices are likely to stay high.

“It is absolutely right that the food issue is receiving a lot of attention. That is a human crisis that’s out there right now. But in the long term, climate change will bring still higher food prices, worsening water problems and more droughts.

Most Americans take food for granted. Even the poorest fifth of households in the United States spend only 16 percent of their budget on food. In many other countries, it is less of a given. Nigerian families spend 73 percent of their budgets to eat, Vietnamese 65 percent, Indonesians half. They are in trouble.

Last year, the food import bill of developing countries rose by 25 percent as food prices rose to levels not seen in a generation. Corn doubled in price over the last two years. Wheat reached its highest price in 28 years. The increases are already sparking unrest from Haiti to Egypt. Many countries have imposed price controls on food or taxes on agricultural exports.

Analysts say that it was uncertain whether the industrialized countries would firm up the goal adopted a year ago to “consider seriously” halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

If one looks at the signs of investment direction that the private sector is crying out for, that is the issue that is most critical. A Nobel prize-winning panel of U.N. scientists has said emissions must level off within the next 10-15 years and then start to dramatically decline to avoid a rise in average temperatures that could have catastrophic consequences. Since the last G-8 meeting in Germany, oil prices have doubled to surpass $140 a barrel, and soaring prices were already having an effect on climate issues.

On the plus side, people were driving less, and renewable energy was winning more attention. For the first time, the International Energy Agency lowered its forecast for oil demand.At the same time, the very poor people who spend the bulk of their income on survival are not happy to see energy prices go up.

World Bank has formally launched two special investment funds for climate change that could rise up to US$10 billion. The funds have been sharply criticized by some environmentalists who distrust the bank’s environmental record and say the money should be put in the hands of U.N. organization.

“The Bank’s new climate funds will undermine U.N. climate talks, increase debt and pay polluters,” say members of the Friends of the Earth in a statement.

It has been estimated that more than $200 billion will be needed annually by 2030 to bring the world’s emissions down to 1990 levels — and still more will be needed to reduce that by half over the next 20 years. We will have to mobilize every possible financial channel to meet that challenge.

Converting food into fuel is neither good for the poor or for the environment. The EU has recently banned import of bio-fuels that cause the environment more harm than good. But hunger analysts and environmental groups argue that the EU, the US and others must cut all subsidies for bio-fuel production. Ensuring the right to food for everyone goes hand in hand with stopping global warming. Also, world leaders must reform the global system of agricultural production and trade, which currently favors large corporate agriculture and export-oriented crops while discriminating against small-scale farmers and agriculture oriented to local needs.

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