Oxfam report: Climate change could prolong world hunger for decades

Oxfam Director: “Climate change is the biggest threat to our chances of winning the fight against hunger ... but the world is woefully under-prepared for it.”
By JC Sevcik  |  Updated March 25, 2014 at 4:37 PM
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A typhoon hits the Philippines, decimating the fishing industry. Drought in Brazil’s breadbasket region ruins the coffee harvest and market prices double. Changing rainfall patterns cause the loss of 80 percent of Guatemala’s corn harvest; the smaller harvest means fewer jobs, higher unemployment. California -- the largest producer of fruits, vegetables, and nuts in the U.S. -- is hit by the worst drought in 100 years, decreasing crop yields, increasing market prices, and putting pressure on farmers.

This is not the imagined paucity climate change may bring, rather, this is happening now, according to Oxfam.

The Oxford, England based global charity dedicated to fighting hunger and injustice released a new report Monday, “Hot and Hungry,” that predicts climate change will continue to exacerbate global hunger.

In addition to extreme weather patterns, smaller changes like slight increases in temperature and shifting rainfall patterns are already having a tremendous impact on agricultural yields according to the report. “Hot and Hungry” paints a bleak picture of the agricultural future if changes in human behavior don't come soon -- drastically reduced crop yields, skyrocketing food prices, unemployment in the agricultural sector due to declining harvests, hunger, famine, drought.

The report examines ten “gap areas” that measure a country’s ability or inability to feed itself in a warming environment. These areas include adaptation finance, social protection, food crisis aid, food stocks, gender, public agricultural investment, agricultural research, crop irrigation, crop insurance, and weather monitoring. The report finds, unsurprisingly, that poorer countries already experiencing food insecurities will be less prepared and able to adapt to changing climates and will be more susceptible to the agricultural impact of climate change.

Oxfam’s report comes just six days before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is set to issue their latest report, which is expected to forecast a 2 percent decrease in food production each decade, attributable to climate change, as food demand increases 14 percent each decade.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our chances of winning the fight against hunger,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, said in a statement. “It could have grave consequences for what we all eat, but the world is woefully under-prepared for it.”

[Oxfam report: Hot and Hungry]

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