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Hunger Seen Worsening by Oxfam as Climate Change Heats Up World

By Rudy Ruitenberg (Bloomberg) - September 24, 2013

World hunger is expected to worsen as climate change hurts crop production and disrupts incomes, with food-price spikes due to extreme weather set to increase, charity Oxfam said.

The number of people at risk of hunger may climb by 10 percent to 20 percent by 2050 as a result of climate change, with daily per-capita calorie availability falling across the world, Oxfam wrote in an e-mailed report today.

The world risks “cataclysmic changes” caused by extreme heat waves, rising sea levels and depleted food stocks, as average temperatures are headed for a 4 degree Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) jump by 2100, the World Bank reported in November.

“The changing climate is already jeopardizing gains in the fight against hunger, and it looks set to worsen,” Oxfam said. “A hot world is a hungry world.”

The Oxfam report comes before the publication of a report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Stockholm later this week.

More extreme and unpredictable weather due to global warming may result in crop losses as well as damage or destroy distribution and transport systems, with severe consequences for food supply and availability, according to the report.

“If the remainder of the 21st century unfolds like its first decade, we will soon experience climate extremes well outside the boundaries of human experience, ever since agriculture was first developed,” Oxfam said.
Emission Cuts

Avoiding dangerous climate change requires a “dramatic shift” in political ambition, the charity said. Ensuring the long-term prospect of hunger eradication means lowering emissions fast, with “deep cuts” needed by 2020, Oxfam said.

The world food system can’t cope with unmitigated climate change, which could lead to a permanent increase in yield variability, “excessive” food-price fluctuations and a permanent disruption to livelihoods, Oxfam said.

Low-income countries in tropical and subtropical regions will probably face “sharp” changes in annual rainfall and climate conditions that will put them at risk of greater food insecurity, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia, the report said. Crop yields there may fall by 10 percent to 20 percent by 2050 due to climate change, Oxfam wrote.

“These creeping, insidious changes in the seasons, such as longer, hotter dry periods, shorter growing periods and unpredictable rainfall patterns are bewildering farmers,” the group wrote.

An increase of 4 degrees Celsius in world temperatures would reduce the length of the growing period in some parts of Africa by as much as 20 percent by 2090, the charity said.

Lacking “urgent and aggressive action” on climate change, the average price of staple foods may double in the next 20 years compared with 2010 levels, Oxfam said.