Oxfam: Extreme Weather Puts Food Security In Danger Worldwide
November 28, 2011

Oxfam: Extreme Weather Puts Food Security In Danger Worldwide

According to new research, compiled by British charity Oxfam, soaring wheat prices stemming from extreme weather events that shook the world in the past year have endangered food security in many places around the world.

Past extreme weather could be a “grim foretaste” of what lies ahead when climate change puts even more strain on the global environment; and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is warning that extreme weather events are likely to increase in frequency and severity without action to tackle climate change.

In a report issued at the start of the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, Oxfam pointed to spikes in wheat, corn and sorghum that had driven tens of millions into poverty over the past 18 months.

Oxfam stated that these price hikes are driven hugely by extreme weather and climate change - such as last year´s drought, heatwave, and fires in Russia which sent grain prices soaring by up to 85 percent around the world - and this year´s monsoon floods in South East Asia which pushed up rice prices by 19 to 30 percent in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

An increase in the number of hot days had also been seen in areas such as North America, Europe and Australia, while other parts of the world had seen heavy rainfall increases and others longer and more intense droughts, according to the report.

“This will only get worse as climate change gathers pace and agriculture feels the heat,” Oxfam´s Kelly Dent told AFP.

“When a weather event drives local or regional price spikes, poor people often face a double shock,“ she said. “They have to cope with higher food prices at a time when extreme weather may have also killed their livestock, destroyed their home or farm.”

By the end of this century, the frequency of heatwaves in some areas of the world could soar if greenhouse gases continue to also increase in the coming decades. At the same rate, heavy rain is also set to occur more often in other areas of the world, scientists warn.

“Governments must act now in Durban to protect our food supply and save millions from slipping into hunger and poverty,” warned Dent.

Oxfam is demanding that delegates at the Durban climate talks must back a legally-binding climate change deal and agree to conclude negotiations on it as soon as possible, while governments must move decisively to bridge the gap between emissions cuts countries have already promised and the scale of reductions needed to stop global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius.

And they must deliver the finance needed to help poor countries tackle climate change, Oxfam said.

The climate talks also must ensure that developed nations promise to deliver $100 billion per year by 2020. And governments must ensure there is no gap in funding after the $30 billion commitment, made in Copenhagen to “Fast Start Finance,” ends in 2012.

“Durban will not deliver everything that is required of an effective global response to climate change,” said Dent. “But governments must build on the past, by continuing Kyoto, planning for a future legal deal to further slash emissions before 2020, and by mobilizing the finance poor people need now to cope with climate change.”

The World Bank estimated in February that 44 million people in developing countries had fallen into extreme poverty as a result of spiraling food prices. In its “Food Price Watch” report, issued this month, the World Bank said that a global index of food prices peaked in February but had dipped by five percent since then.

Even so, the index was still 19 percent higher than in September 2010, although the figure varied greatly according to the country and the commodity, it said, adding that price hikes were a source of despair for the needy.

“For the poorest who spend up to 75 percent of their income on food, price rises on this scale can have consequences as families are forced into impossible trade-offs in a desperate bid to feed themselves,” it said.

“More frequent and extreme weather events will compound things further, creating shortages, destabilizing markets and precipitating price spikes, which will be felt on top of the structural price rises predicted by the models,” Oxfam said.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu led a rally of a few hundred spectators at a soccer stadium on the eve of the climate talks urging negotiators to be more ambitious during what were expected to be difficult talks.


On the Net: