Climate change could be linked to extreme poverty: report

China's drought
A farmer checks maize seedlings in a drought parched field on July 28, 2014 in Wenxian County, Henan Province of China. Photo by ChinaFotoPress

Climate change has been listed as the cause of an increase in extreme weather, rising temperatures and now it could be the reason millions of people live in extreme poverty.

A new report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says climate change will “seriously compromise food production in countries and regions that are already highly food-insecure.”

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Food security and climate change are so closely linked; it calls the two an “unprecedented double challenge” in the world.

The report says as climate change becomes more severe, its negative impact on food security will only grow.

“With climate change, the population living in poverty could increase by between 35 and 122 million by 2030,” the report states.

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“In some particularly vulnerable places, such as small islands or in areas affected by large-scale extreme weather and climate events, the impact could be catastrophic,” it cautions.

Among the hardest hit are rural communities in Africa and South America – but that doesn’t mean Canada is spared.

More extreme weather like El Nino, warming oceans and a high risk of forest fire will affect crop yields, fisheries and animal husbandry.

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While food security will slowly decline here, North America won’t see drastic changes until 2100, according to the reports.

Globally, more than 60 million people – two-thirds of them in the east and southern Africa – faced food shortages this year because of droughts linked to El Nino.

“We all know that El Nino will happen, but the intensity by which it happens is really scary,” Stamoulis told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“In the longer run, unless measures are put in place to halt and reverse climate change, food production could become impossible in large areas of the world,” the report states.

It also warns that the agricultural framework currently in place is also a major driver of climate change (agriculture, forestry and changes in land use together produce 21 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions) and urges farmers to adapt and transform their industry to be more sustainable.

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But all is not lost.

Some possible solutions include switching to “nitrogen-efficient and heat-tolerant” crops or changing the way we fertilize soil.

“By one estimate, the number of people at risk of undernourishment in developing countries in 2050 could be reduced by more than 120 million through widespread use of nitrogen-efficient crop varieties alone.”

But implementation of these recommendations is tough. The report states that without a “reorientation of agricultural and rural development policies,” their goals won’t be achieved.

To achieve this reorientation, social and agricultural policies need to be put in place to help out, FOA advises, especially in the poorest countries.

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*With files from Reuters.