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Climate Change and Hunger: “The Capacity to Adapt is Limited”

The IPCC releases the latest report on climate change and land, which includes the disastrous effects of temperature increases on soil fertility

The issue of climate change has long been discussed, but only recently is gaining the notoriety necessary for substantial change to take place. The UN based Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is finally disclosing its findings on the very tangible implications of global warming.

The long-lasting battle between weary scientists, who have been warning us of the disastrous effects of human-induced climate change, and the staunch defenders of fossil fuels, who reluctantly refuse any notion that may go against their own interests, has finally started to sway in favor of the former. Climate change is currently a very real threat that is showing substantial consequences in certain areas, one of which is food production. In a recently released UN report centered on climate change and land, a massive 1,200 page undertaking by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), details the shocking effects of rising temperatures on soil fertility, which in turn may dangerously limit the global food supply.

As stated by Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, “Today 500 million people live in areas that experience desertification,” further elaborating that, “People living in already degraded or desertified areas are increasingly negatively affected by climate change.”

Based on previous studies, 820 million people worldwide are not receiving adequate amounts of food. Amidst estimates that 30% of the global food supply is either lost or wasted, many experts urge governments to limit the overwhelming strain put on the ecosystem by embracing so called “bio” fuels, therefore building the foundation for a new, sustainable green economy.

One such expert is Dr. Jim Skea who insisted that, “Limiting global warming to 1.5 or even two degrees (Celsius) will involve removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and land which has a critical role to play in carbon dioxide removal”. “Agricultural practices can help build up carbon in soils, but it could also mean using more bio-energy with or without carbon capture and storage and expanding forests”, continued Dr. Skea.

 

This report includes the contribution of 107 scientists stemming from over 50 countries worldwide, which gives a near comprehensive look at the conditions climate change has inflicted on land and linked resources. 

In spite of the usual criticism that consists of brushing aside the issue and ignoring the facts, often due to immediate profitability, another Working Group Co-Chair, Hans-Otto Pörtner, said that there was, “no possibility for anybody to say, ‘Oh, climate change is happening and we (will) just adapt to it.’ The capacity to adapt is limited.”

Even more troubling is the expected population surge, which by 2050, is estimated to reach 10 billion people. This will most definitely affect the situation further and it requires immediate attention to prepare for the future spike. “There are some regions and some places, especially in the lower latitudes, where vulnerability is extreme,” said Mr. Pörtner. “But even in those countries, when there is an emphasis on adaptation in their development strategies, mitigation should play a key role.”

Another less encouraging piece of information is the long process for approval, which severely affects urgency. This was evident when the report was delayed due to the fact that it had to be assessed by the 195 UN member states before being released to the public. The next important date for the fight against climate change will come next month, at the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23rd in New York, where the IPCC plans to release its latest findings on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

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