September 11th, 2012 by Oxfam
Oxfam’s report, Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices, highlights for the first time how extreme weather events such as droughts and floods could drive up future food prices.
Previous research only tends to consider gradual impacts, such as increasing temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.
Oxfam’s research seeks to go beyond this and look at the impact of extreme weather scenarios on food prices in 2030.
The research warns that by that date the world could be even more vulnerable to the kind of drought happening today in the US, with dependence on US exports of wheat and maize predicted to rise and climate change increasing the likelihood of extreme droughts in North America.
The research also finds:
Oxfam’s Climate Change Policy Adviser Tim Gore said such price spikes would be a massive blow to the world’s poorest people who today spend up to 75% of their income on food.
“Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns hold back crop production and cause steady price rises. But extreme weather events – like the current US drought – can wipe out entire harvests and trigger dramatic food price spikes.”
“We will all feel the impact as prices spike but the poorest people will be hit hardest,” Tim Gore said.
“The huge potential impact of extreme weather events on future food prices is missing from today’s climate change debate. The world needs to wake up to the drastic consequences facing our food system of climate inaction,” Tim Gore said.
The research also warns that climate shocks in Sub-Saharan Africa are likely to have an increasingly dramatic impact in 2030 as 95% of grains such as maize, millet and sorghum that are consumed in sub-Saharan Africa could come from the region itself.
“As emissions continue to soar, extreme weather in the US and elsewhere provides a glimpse of our future food system in a warming world. Our planet is heading for average global warming of 2.5–5°C this century”
“It is time to face up to what this means for hunger and malnutrition for millions of people on Earth,” Tim Gore said.
“Our governments ‘stress-tested’ the banks after the financial crisis. We now need to stress test the global food system under climate change to identify where we are most vulnerable. Governments must also act now to slash rising greenhouse gas emissions, reverse decades of under-investment in small scale agriculture in poor countries, and provide the additional money needed to help poor farmers adapt to a changing climate.”
The report comes as UN talks aimed at tackling climate change ended in Bangkok, Thailand on 5 September 2012 with little sign of progress, while the Food and Agriculture Organization publishes further information on how the worst US drought in sixty years is impacting global food prices.
It is part of Oxfam’s campaign GROW which aims to create a world where everyone has enough to eat, always.