Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Climate change exacerbates scarcity in already food insecure regions

Grant Potter and Graham Salinger in via the Worldwatch Institute: A recent report by The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), offers new insight into the threat that climate change poses to the livelihood of millions of farmers worldwide. The report, Mapping Hotspots of Climate Change and Food Insecurity in the Global Tropics, maps areas at risk of crossing "climate thresholds - temperatures too hot for maize or beans," by 2050.

These threshold models were compared against food insecure countries, defined as places where over 40 percent of children under the age of five experienced stunted growth as a result of malnutrition. When these two factors overlap, the model "reveals places around the world where the arrival of stressful growing conditions could be especially disastrous," says Polly Ericksen, a senior scientist at the CGIAR's International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Within these hotspots, "there are 265.7 million food-insecure people living in agriculture intensive areas that are highly exposed to a potential five percent decrease in the length of the growing period" according to a press release announcing the results of the report. This may sound like a small reduction but "these are areas highly exposed to climate shifts, where survival is strongly linked to the fate of regional crop and livestock yields, and where chronic food problems indicate that farmers are already struggling and they lack the capacity to adapt to new weather patterns," explains Ericksen.

CGIAR emphasizes that "growing seasons of at least 120 days are considered critical not only for the maturation of [wheat] and several other staple food crops, but also for vegetation crucial to feeding livestock." But, according to their projections, "prime growing conditions are likely to drop below 120 days per season in intensively farmed regions of northeast Brazil and Mexico" by 2050....

Potatoes grown in the Kibirichia area of Mount Kenya. Photo by CIAT, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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