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Global warming could push millions into extreme poverty

"There is no doubt climate change affects food security," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

By Brooks Hays
Global warming could push millions into extreme poverty
Extreme weather events caused by climate change could result in a rise in extreme poverty -- mostly among small-scale farmers in rural regions of the developing world. Photo by Pierre-Yves Babelon / Shutterstock.com

ROME, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Over the last several decades, extreme poverty has been on decline across the globe. Global warming is threatening that pattern, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

This year's "The State of Food and Agriculture" report focuses on the expected impacts of global warming on farming around the world.

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Should climate change and its negative impacts go unaddressed, researchers predict an additional 35 million to 122 million people may face extreme poverty by 2030.

Because a majority of the world's poorest citizens are sustenance farmers and herders, climate change and its agricultural consequences pose a unique threat to the livelihoods some of the most vulnerable populations.

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The majority of the world's small-scale farmers are found in rural regions of the developing world. Some of these regions will be especially susceptible to heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.

"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," the report's authors point out.

"There is no doubt climate change affects food security," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a news release. "What climate change does is to bring back uncertainties from the time we were all hunter gatherers. We cannot assure any more that we will have the harvest we have planted."

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Higher temperatures and more extreme weather events will affect the ability of small-scale farmers to provide for their families. But climate change won't just threaten the world's poor. It will also affect the ability of all types of farmers to grow food for the rest of the world.

A more volatile climate will result in unpredictable agricultural yields.

"Everybody is paying for that, not only those suffering from droughts," Graziano da Silva added.

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Researchers at the U.N. insist stakeholders must begin turning warnings and words into action, and take steps to protect small-scale farmers from climate change by diversifying farm systems as well as livelihood opportunities.

"The benefits of adaptation outweigh the costs of inaction by very wide margins," concluded Graziano da Silva.

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