Obama highlights climate change’s impact on food security
By Olivia Evans

The interconnections between climate change and global food security have long been known. But on Tuesday at Georgetown University, Obama delivered a speech that particularly underscored those connections. In the words of the President himself:

“Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next; and higher food prices get passed on to you, the American consumer...So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgement of science has put all that to rest...the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”

Obama makes a fair point. The argument that global warming is effecting food systems has, indeed, been put to rest. That’s because the evidence is overwhelming: Gradual changes in temperature, precipitation and extreme weather events have already resulted in crop failures, livestock deaths and other asset losses.

Between 1981 and 2002, maize, wheat and other major crops experienced  yield reductions of 40 megatons per year due to climate-associated factors. At temperatures higher than 30 degrees Celsius, most livestock species reduce their feed intake and therefore reproductive capacity by 3 to 5 percent for each degree of temperature rise. Even fish, which of all species we might think would benefit from rising sea levels, have had volatile sea currents flush and clean their habitats in 75 percent of the world’s major fishing grounds.

So the evidence is there. Now it’s time we mobilize, and mobilize quickly. Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Full Planet, Empty Plates, noted: “We should be acting to cut carbon emissions, fast. And by fast I don’t mean 80% by 2050, the game will be long over before then. I mean 80% by 2020.”

80 percent by 2020 may seem like a long shot. But that is what the scale of the challenge demands. Great strides have already been made towards mitigating climate change and adapting our food system in a more sustainable way. Various actors, including FAO Climate Change and other UN agencies, NGOs, and private companies at the Rio+20 Summit last year, are out there providing feasible solutions every day.

One among this sea of actors is CGIAR, who recently produced the video How to feed the world in 2050: actions in a changing climate. Watch it, and see why Obama said that we citizens need to “stand up, speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands”.

 

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