Political pressure grows as new IPCC leak projects escalating food crisis

Intro

A draft version of a major new climate report has been leaked over the weekend and reveals that climate change will seriously threaten the world’s food supply in coming decades, increasing the pressure on governments gathering at UN climate talks in Poland next week to rapidly cut polluting emissions. The leaked draft from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says rising global temperatures and resulting weather extremes could undermine crop production and drive up prices at a time when the demand for food is expected to soar. The findings – which have been widely reported by major media outlets over the weekend – represent a significant departure from earlier, more hopeful assessments that estimated negative impacts on crops in some regions would be offset by increased production in other areas. The world’s leading climate scientists conclude that rising temperatures will make it harder for crops to thrive – with the potential to reduce overall production by as much as 2% each decade for the rest of this century. The leaked draft also warns against exacerbated threats to human health, such a malnutrition due to the unfolding food crisis, reduced labor productivity resulting from climate driven diseases, or even death and injury from extreme weather events. These dangerous trends could also trigger spikes of violence in vulnerable regions as poverty, starvation and conflicts over food and water supplies grow. The leaked report also highlights several other far-reaching and severe impacts from worsening climate change expected to take its toll on biodiversity and the global economy

 

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RT @kellyrigg #Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supplies http://nyti.ms/1iBa1tR From the leaked draft of #IPCC WG2

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Key Points

  • A leaked draft of an important new report by hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists shows that climate change will have intolerable impacts on global food security, reducing supply while demand simultaneously grows. As global warming increases, higher temperatures and heat waves are expected to cut yields by 2% per decade for the rest of this century. At the same time, global demand is expected to rise 14% each decade, exponentially increasing pressure on the global food system and driving more hunger and poverty among the world’s most vulnerable populations.
  • The impact climate change has on food supplies will not only exacerbate hunger, poverty and disease, but it will also create more conflict. According to the scientists, shortfalls in staple crops will lead to price shocks that hit the world’s poor hardest. This is likely to trigger an increase in violent protest and civil war, as well as conflict over ever scarcer water and food supplies. Agricultural risks are greatest for tropical countries, as projected impacts will exceed their capacity to adapt, and they already exhibit higher poverty rates than less vulnerable regions. These highly exposed countries are also worst affected by exacerbated threats to human health, which result from climate driven diseases and extreme weather events. The full consequences of climate change will be far reaching as a warmer world is also expected to take its toll on the global economy and threaten ecosystems and global biodiversity.
  • The latest findings further highlight the need for fast and bold climate action from governments. Scientists are now more certain than ever about the negative impact humans have on the global climate, and this leaked new report demonstrates once again that strong, urgent and concerted action must be taken to modernize our economies, clean up our energy systems and phase out climate polluting emissions. At the same time governments must mobilize the funding for these solutions as well as for vital adaptation measures in affected regions. With the latest round of UN climate talks to kick off in Poland next week, the new warning puts pressure on governments to make progress towards a global climate agreement in 2015.

Background

A draft version of a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been leaked and received a lot of media attention over the weekend. It shows that crop sensitivity to heat waves will have a severe impact on global food supplies, and that sweeping impacts from climate change are already being observed around the world. The leaked report warns that global warming exacerbates poverty, hunger, disease and violence.

The report notes that rising temperatures will have some beneficial effects on crops in a few places, but these benefits will be outweighed by negative impacts on food supplies worldwide, with agricultural production estimated to decrease by as much as 2% each decade for the rest of this century.

While yields decrease, demand is expected to rise as much as 14% each decade, with projections putting the world population at 9.6 billion in 2050 (up from 7.2 billion today), many of whom will move to richer diets as their incomes grow and standards of living are meant to improve. The report says that these trends and the growing gap between demand and supply will exacerbate hunger and poverty in many parts of the world, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

While the report from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning panel is still under review and could change before final release in March 2014, the warnings it contains have been described as the sharpest in tone to date. They are a stark departure from those contained in the more hopeful 2007 report, which said that food production losses in the tropics would most likely be offset by gains at higher latitudes.

Eroding food security and an increase in “hotspots of hunger” will also drive poverty and conflict. Risks from violent conflict in the form of civil war, inter-group violence and violent protests are increased by climate change, as the leaked report points out that it exacerbates well-established drivers of these conflicts.

The IPCC bases its projections on the current emissions pathway, which has the world on course for a 4ºC increase in average global temperatures compared to pre-industrial levels. According to the report, accelerated warming combined with high levels of humidity will compromise essential human activities – including growing food or working outdoors – in some parts of the world.

The leaked draft also warns against exacerbated threats to human health, such a malnutrition due to the unfolding food crisis, reduced labor productivity resulting from climate driven diseases, or even death and injury from extreme weather events. According to the IPCC, these will by far outweigh the positive effects of a warmer world on human health, such as modest improvements in cold-related mortality and morbidity due to fewer cold extremes and reduced capacity of disease-carrying vectors in some areas.

This latest report was drafted why Working Group 2, one of three Working Groups producing chapters for the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report (AR5) and focusing on climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation. It follows from the Working Group 1 report on the physical science of climate change, released this September, which showed that scientists are more certain than ever about the negative influence of human activity on the global climate. Working Group 3, due in April 2014, will look at mitigation solutions to avoid runaway climate change. Together the three Working Group reports will over the most comprehensive overall assessment of climate change to date.

Taken together, Working Groups 1 and 2 demonstrate the need for strong, urgent and concerted government action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to keep the world under the internationally agreed danger-threshold of 2ºC global warming – beyond which scientists expect climate change to spin out of control.

In their Working Group 1 report, the IPCC warned that humans have already emitted more than half the greenhouse gases allowed to surpass the 2ºC target, and new research warns this global carbon budget to 2100 could be gone 21 years from now.

This week, three former heads of the UNFCCC process added further urgency, ahead of the UN talks beginning in Warsaw next week, warning that time is rapidly running out to prevent global temperature rise from surpassing the 2ºC threshold. The Warsaw meeting will continue work toward a treaty cutting carbon dioxide emissions in all countries and towards mobilizing the necessary funds. The aim is to complete the new global agreement in 2015 and for emission reduction targets to take effect in 2020, while short terms measures to strengthen existing targets for a phase down of emissions are also a priority.

Despite the serious and disturbing warnings warnings from both scientists and diplomats, a handful of climate sceptics continue to distract the climate process and discredit the climate science with claims that global warming has “paused” over the last decade and that the Arctic sea ice is recovering rather than declining.

While gaining some media coverage, these claims continue to be dismissed by the vast majority of the scientific community, who also highlight that the impacts of climate change are increasingly evident. This latest draft from the IPCC further emphasises such warnings, highlighting the serious threat global warming plays and the negative impacts it will have.

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More Key Findings

More key findings from the leaked report highlighted by Bloomberg include:

  • The economic cost of warming of 2.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels may range from 0.2% to 2% of global output.

  • By 2100, hundreds of millions of people may be affected by coastal flooding due to climate change and development patterns that don’t take into account the need for adaptation.

  • Animal and plant species are shifting their ranges and seasonal activities in response to warming temperatures. the tropics are likely to lose species diversity as creatures move their ranges away from the Equator.

  • A “large fraction” of land and freshwater species face increased risk of extinction at projected rates of warming.

  • At higher projected rates of warming, areas such as the tundra and the Amazon rainforest face a high risk of “abrupt and irreversible” changes in their ecosystems.

  • Climate change will cut available freshwater “significantly in most dry subtropical regions.”

  • Governments aren’t standing still. Most national governments in Africa are starting efforts to adapt their economies and peoples to the changing climate. In Australasia, planning for sea-level rise is widespread, and local governments in North America are adapting public infrastructure to better cope with impacts.

Quotes

  • “Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will slow down economic growth and poverty reduction, further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger. Climate change will exacerbate poverty in low- and lower-middle income countries and create new poverty pockets in upper-middle to high-income countries with increasing inequality.” – the draft report.
  • “We’ve seen a lot of impacts and they’ve had consequences, and we will see more in the future. The reason I’m not depressed is because I see the difference between a world in which we don’t do anything and a world in which we try hard to get our arms around the problem.” Carnegie Institution climate scientist and head of the report Chris Field.

More tweets

  • RT ‏@RogerHighfield Leaked IPCC draft shows climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply http://nyti.ms/1dz3xeF
  • MT ‏@elaineishere Leaked IPCC report: Climate change to reduce world food supply 2% per decade while demand grows 14% http://nyti.ms/1iBa1tR