Tackling climate change from different angles

gadisymposium2014_625x333With the recent release of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, climate change has been a familiar topic in the news and media. More recently new publications have explicitly linked climate change to food security and they show that there is much to be done by governments, big business and the public sector, if our food and agricultural systems are to be resilient to predicted changes in the climate.

A new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of Weather Volatility and Climate Change, which builds on the IPCC report, explains how climate change will undermine efforts to tackle hunger, limiting food production and putting food supplies at risk. Higher temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and more frequent and severe natural disasters could reduce food production growth by 2% each decade for the rest of this century.  But, the report says, US government action can curb the risks climate change poses to global food security by integrating climate change adaptation into its global food security strategy. Recommendations include:

  • Passing legislation for a long-term global food and nutrition security strategy.
  • Increasing funding for agricultural research on climate change adaptation.  Research priorities should include improving crop and livestock tolerance to higher temperatures and volatile weather, combating pests and disease and reducing food waste.
  • Collecting better data and making information on weather more widely available to farmers.  There are significant global data gaps right now on weather; water availability, quality and future requirements; crop performance; land use; and consumer preferences.
  • Increasing funding for partnerships between U.S. universities and universities and research institutions in low-income countries, to train the next generation of agricultural leaders.
  • Advancing international action through urging that food security be addressed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

Not only does the US, and other countries, have much to gain from maintaining and improving agricultural productivity and strong, stable international commodity markets but it is imperative they tackle climate change, in particular with a focus on adaptation, as part of their commitment to food and nutrition security. As Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder, president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs stated, “For the first time since the Green Revolution, empowering the world’s poorest to improve their livelihoods is a high priority on the international agenda. But climate change puts the success of these efforts at risk.”

The report makes the link that the effects of climate change in reducing global food security and availability puts countries, developed and developing alike, at great risk in terms of national security and economic prosperity.

Yesterday, more than 500 policymakers, corporate executives, scientists, and senior leaders from international and nongovernmental organizations gathered to discuss the report, Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate (PDF), at the Council’s Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington DC. Find out more about the presentations here.

A new Oxfam report shows it’s not just governments that need to consider climate change. The world’s biggest food producers and food brands need to do a lot more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The world’s largest ten food and beverage companies have been linked to an estimated 264 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2012, this is more than the emissions of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined. If the group of companies were a nation, it would be the 25th most polluting country in the world. [Read more…]

Where are we on climate change?

ID-100103034 (2)Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and advisor to the UK government through the Committee on Climate Change, recently gave a talk at Imperial College London on the latest research and actions around climate change.

Global CO2 levels are currently at 397ppm (parts per million), a level not seen for 4.5 million years. We have increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere by 40% since the Industrial Revolution. While there has been a clear and significant increase in global temperatures since 1850, we have seen a hiatus on temperature rises in the last decade. While sceptics may use this as evidence to support their claims, a decade of cooler temperatures is not outside the range of predictions from climate models.

Global sea levels are rising 3mm per year. While the melting of the Western Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is contributing around 1mm of this increase, it is unknown how likely this is to accelerate if we reach a threshold point of destabilisation. In the Arctic, recent pictures of the ice cap in mid-September (when it is at its minimum size) show it is half the average size it was in the last century. By 2050-2060 we would expect the arctic ice cap to have vanished come September.

We have seen some significant heat extremes in the past decade: the 2003 European heatwave, 2010 Russian heatwave and more recently the 2012 US drought. Work by NASA scientists Dr James Hansen and colleagues indicates a shift to more frequent and severe bouts of high temperatures. But it is not just heat extremes, as the climate changes we are also seeing cold extremes in certain locations despite remarkable warmth elsewhere. This indicates our ability to predict regional trends is much more limited than our ability to predict global averages and while we may, in the past have viewed climate change as a warming of the planet, now we are trying to understand it as a disruption of our climate systems, one that will have severe and varied results. [Read more…]

Progress from Doha on tackling climate change

A series of articles by Smita Nakhooda for the Overseas Development Initiative, Amy Goodman for The Guardian, and Aljazeera News lay out the progress made at the 18th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC held from in Doha from the 26th November to the 8th December 2012. As Amy Goodman points out, “latest findings suggest that the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2ºC may now be beyond reach, and that we may now be locked into a 4-6ºC temperature increase”. So what are global leaders doing to avoid ‘dangerous climate change’?

1)    The Kyoto Protocol will run for a second commitment period from 1st January 2013 to 31st December 2020. But only the EU and Australia are bound by commitments to reduce emissions, and emissions reductions, an average of 18% relative to 1990 levels by 2020, are ‘not particularly challenging’. Further to this, countries such as the US and Canada are unlikely to adopt these commitments anytime soon. [Read more…]