Hunger and Climate Change
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Nearly one in nine people suffer from hunger worldwide, and global hunger has been rising since 2016 (World Hunger Education Service 2018; FAO 2018). There are a number of factors that contribute to hunger, including poverty, food and agriculture practices and policies, and conflict (FAO 2017). The increasing number of extreme climate related disasters, due to climate change, have contributed to changes in agricultural productivity, food availability, food pricing, and food access. Events like flooding, drought, storms, and extreme temperatures caused by climate change can result in increased poverty, loss of assets, and in turn, increased hunger (FAO et. al 39).
The majority of the worlds hungry population lives in environments prone to climate hazards such as Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America (World Food Programme, 2018). Extreme climate events have the potential to disrupt resources and services such as trade routes and food assistance programs that much of the world depends on (IPCC, 2014). These disruptions can have a strong effect on vulnerable populations, as poverty affects someone’s ability to recover from climate events. This creates a cyclical effect where climate-related events create and sustain poverty, increasing food insecurity and malnutrition, and therefore a person’s vulnerability to climate events in the future (FAO 2018).
Agriculture both effects and is affected by climate change. Agriculture is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and soil degradation (European Environmental Agency, 2016). Alternatively, drought and rising temperatures caused by climate change also affect food security and crop yields. The impacts of climate change differ based on income and environment. Low and middle income countries with tropical areas are more susceptible to the negative effects of climate change, such as decreases in water availability and increased heat spells that damage crop productivity. By contrast, in higher income countries with temperate zones, climate change may increase crop productivity by causing longer growing seasons and available acreage for crop production (FAO 2017).
Many areas that are affected by climate change are also affected by conflict, though the relationship between climate change and conflict is not yet well understood (Famine Early Warnings Systems Network 2012). Often, conflict results in loss of food access and income, which can be exacerbated by climate change. For example, in 2012, a region-wide drought killed livestock, resulting in income loss for farmers, leading to an increase in theft and rebel groups (Bresinger, E.O and Trinh 51-59).
Multiple methods can be implemented to reduce climate change’s impact on hunger. Efforts to empower women and vulnerable groups, such as nutrition programs and farming education for women, can decrease vulnerability to climate events, increase income stability, and increase food security (World Food Programme and Oxfam 2016). Agricultural methods such as crop diversity, which involves growing crops in rotation with other crops, leads to greater crop resilience to drought, pest and disease outbreaks (FAO 2018). Finally, governments can adopt resilience policies, such as risk monitoring for extreme weather, and emergency response practices to mitigate the risks of conflict.
- 2018 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics, in Hunger Notes. 2018, World Hunger Education Service: Washington, DC.
- The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018. Building climate resilience for food security and nutrition. 2018, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
- The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges. 2017, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
- FAO/UNICEF/WHO/WFP/IFAD, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018, p. 39.
- Two Minutes on Climate Change and Hunger – A Zero Hunger World Needs Climate Resilience. 2018, World Food Programme.
- IPCC, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, in Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth
- Agriculture and Climate Change. 2016, European Environmental Agency: Copenhagen, Denmark.
- Breisinger C, E.O., Trinh Tan, JF, Conflict and food insecurity: How do we break the links?, in 2014-2015 Global food policy report., I.F.P.R.I. (IFPRI), Editor. 2015: Washington, D.C. p. 51-59.
- Impact Evaluation of the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative in Senegal, Final evaluation. 2016, World Food Programme and Oxfam: Rome, Italy.
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For the past 40 years, since its founding in 1976, the mission of World Hunger Education Service is to undertake programs, including Hunger Notes, that
- Educate the general public and target groups about the extent and causes of hunger and malnutrition in the United States and the world
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- Facilitate communication and networking among those who are working for solutions
- Promote individual and collective commitments to sustainable hunger solutions.