Climate Change Threatens Food Production

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” released Monday night warns food production will be impacted, even with only small amount of global warming.

The effect of climate change on agriculture will be discussed at the upcoming Fenner Conference – Making Australian agriculture sustainable – that will be held at the Shine Dome in Canberra on March 17 and 18, and on-line.

One of the conference speakers is Prof Mark Howden, one of three vice-chairs of the IPCC. They have written about the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change in The Conversation (Mass starvation, extinctions, disasters: the new IPCC report’s grim predictions, and why adaptation efforts are falling behind, 28 Feb 2022.)

They note that even warming below 1.6℃ will see eight per cent of today’s farmland become climatically unsuitable for current activities by 2100.
Ms Jenny Goldie, national president of Sustainable Population Australia, a co-organiser of the conference, says: “This may well lead to mass starvation. Prof Howden has noted that in Africa, for instance, where climate change has already reduced productivity growth, further warming will shorten growing seasons and the availability of water.

“In particular, warming above 2℃ will result in significant yield reductions for staple crops such as maize across most of the continent.

“It’s not just temperature increase, of course,” says Ms Goldie. “At 2 warming, we will see three billion people experiencing chronic water scarcity. This will constrain irrigation options, further reducing food productivity.”

Ms Goldie says flood damage is likely to be twice as high at 2℃.

“In November last year, farmers around Forbes in NSW reported devastating crop losses when the Lachlan River flooded.

“The report notes that if warming reaches 2°C, it will no longer be possible to grow staple crops in many areas, particularly in the tropics.”

Ms Goldie says that conference speakers will be addressing how to make Australian agriculture more sustainable.

“If pollination and soil health are weakened by further warming, and pests and agricultural diseases become more widespread, achieving sustainability will be ever more difficult. How much worse it will be, though, for people in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Central and South America and Small Islands, where the increased risks of malnutrition will be particularly high.”

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