Climate change could lead to significant food price rises

Gurjit Degun
31 March 2014

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31 March 2014 | Gurjit Degun

Global crop yields for maize, rice and wheat could be significantly affected by 2050 if nothing is done to tackle climate change.

That’s according to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said the world is “ill-prepared” for risks from a climate changing.

The report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, noted that changes in temperature could contribute to higher global food prices by 2050. It estimated that the increases could range from 3 per cent to 84 per cent.

“Climate change has negatively affected wheat and maize yields for many regions and in the global aggregate,” the report said. “Effects on rice and soybean yields have been smaller in major production regions and globally.

“Observed impacts relate mainly to production aspects of food security rather than access or other components of food security. Since AR4 [the previous IPCC report], several periods of rapid food and cereal price increases following climate extremes in key producing regions indicate a sensitivity of current markets to climate extremes among other factors.”

The study, produced by an international body of scientists, also said climate change is “a particularly difficult challenge” for managing risk because the likelihood and consequences of possible events are readily understood.

It said: “In particular, future greenhouse gas emissions depend on societal choices, policies, and technology advancements not yet made, and climate-change impacts depend on both the amount of climate change that occurs and the effectiveness of development in reducing exposure and vulnerability.

“The real challenge of dealing effectively with climate change is recognising the value of wise and timely decisions in a setting where complete knowledge is impossible. This is the essence of risk management.”

Chris Field, the report’s co-chair, said: “Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming.

“We definitely face challenges, but understanding those challenges and tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to help build a more vibrant world in the near-term and beyond.”

UK government secretary of state for energy and climate change Edward Davey added: “The science has clearly spoken. Left unchecked, climate change will impact on many aspects of our society, with far reaching consequences to human health, global food security and economic development.

“The recent flooding in the UK is a testament to the devastation that climate change could bring to our daily lives.

“This evidence strengthens the case for early action in the UK and around the world to lessen the significant risks posed by climate change. We cannot afford to wait.”

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