Climate change and food insecurity
A food market

Stringent climate change mitigation policies across all industries could cause hunger levels to rise by three times as much as global warming itself, according to a study released on Tuesday.

According to the study,”Food insecurity can be directly exacerbated by climate change due to crop-production-related impacts of warmer and drier conditions that are expected in important agricultural regions”.

“However, efforts to mitigate climate change through comprehensive, economy-wide GHG emissions reductions may also negatively affect food security, due to indirect impacts on prices and supplies of key agricultural commodities”. This includes measures in agriculture schemes such as a global carbon tax which could put 78 million more people at risk of hunger by 2050 by pushing up the price of food.

“It will become difficult for the poor and vulnerable people to buy enough food,” said Tomoko Hasegawa, one of the lead researchers of the study, which recommends countries instead adopt specific policies for agriculture.

“Some people may also shift from nutrition-rich products to less nutritious food.”

Agriculture, forestry and other land use together account for nearly a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the FAO.

But introducing carbon taxes, expanding biofuel plantations and planting trees – all measures that would help countries meet their commitments under the Paris climate agreement – would increase the cost of food production, the study said.

“The negative impacts would be most prevalent in vulnerable, low-income regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where food security problems are already acute.”

The findings underscore the challenges of cutting emissions produced through agriculture, which experts say is essential to cap the rise in global temperatures at a manageable level as agreed under the Paris deal.

Hasegawa, a scientist with Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies, said the researchers were not trying to downplay the need for mitigation but rather wanted policymakers to be flexible in designing policies.

Alternatives to carbon taxes – levies on emissions – including transferring technologies that improve crop yields from developed nations to help vulnerable countries farm more efficiently, she said.

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