The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released it’s 5th International Assessment on the impacts of climate change. The report, which had more than 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers, highlights climatic effects on human settlements, economics, poverty, and how climate change may impact food production, particularly in the developing world.
The report concludes that food production is at risk from drought, flooding, and changing rainfall patterns. With imbalanced ocean chemistry, some species of fish could become extinct and many are migrating to the poles. In East Africa, in Lake Tanganyika, increased temperature caused fish yields to decrease by 30 percent. And the report shows crop yields could decline by 2 percent a decade for the rest of the century as a result of changing climate patterns.
The most significant impacts of temperature on crops are seen in 3-5 degrees Celsius increases on maize and tropical rice, with still significant effects in 1-2 degree Celsius increases. The IPCC report concludes that even trace increases in temperature (those less than 2 degrees Celsius) results in yield decreases. The report cites a 2009 study that estimates wheat and soybean losses of 10 percent and 3-5 percent maize and rice losses as a result of elevated O3 levels, which are a result of changing agro-industrial farming techniques.
While food prices generally declined for most of the 20th century, recent increases have been attributed to increased crop demand for use in biofuel production. The report notes, “at the same time, food prices are increasingly associated with the price of crude oil (blue line), making attribution of price changes to climate difficult.” But, the report also emphasizes changes in the world’s food supply will have the most serious consequences on poor nations.
“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of IPCC.
The impacts of climate change noted in the report are impossible to escape and the effects are already visible. Snow on mountains is melting away, there are increased instances of drought, and snow melting earlier in the year results in drier summers. For farmers there is less water to allocate to crop production, and for eaters and consumers that means less food at the farmers’ market.
Offsetting the effects of climate change is estimated to cost more than US$100 billion a year– a figure that the poorest nations can’t afford and aren’t receiving from richer countries. Which is why greater efforts to limit the effects of climate change are more necessary than ever to feed a growing population.