Friday, June 3, 2011

Future “hotspots” of risk for hundreds of millions whose food problems are exacerbated by climate change

Climate Change—Agriculture and Food Security: A new study has matched future climate change “hotspots” with regions already suffering chronic food problems to identify highly-vulnerable populations, chiefly in Africa and South Asia, but potentially in China and Latin America as well, where in fewer than 40 years, the prospect of shorter, hotter or drier growing seasons could imperil hundreds of millions of already-impoverished people.

The report, "Mapping Hotspots of Climate Change and Food Insecurity in the Global Tropics" (PDF) was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). The work was undertaken by a team of scientists responding to an urgent need to focus climate change adaptation efforts on people and places where the potential for harsher growing conditions poses the gravest threat to food production and food security.

The researchers pinpointed areas of intense vulnerability by examining a variety of climate models and indicators of food problems to create a series of detailed maps. One shows regions around the world at risk of crossing certain “climate thresholds”—such as temperatures too hot for maize or beans—that over the next 40 years could diminish food production. Another shows regions that may be sensitive to such climate shifts because in general they have large areas of land devoted to crop and livestock production. And finally, scientists produced maps of regions with a long history of food insecurity.

“When you put these maps together they reveal places around the world where the arrival of stressful growing conditions could be especially disastrous,” said Polly Ericksen, a senior scientist at the CGIAR’s International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya and the study’s lead author. “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.”

“This is a very troubling combination,” she added. For example, in large parts of South Asia, including almost all of India, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa—chiefly West Africa—there are 369 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. Such a change over the next 40 years could significantly affect food yields and food access for people—many of them farmers themselves—already living on the edge….

In the map above, the red areas are food-insecure and intensively farmed regions that are highly exposed to a potential five percent or greater reduction in the length of the growing season. Source: CGIAR

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