A UN report shows an estimated 2 billion people now face moderate or severe food insecurity as the planet heats

By Georgina Gustin, July 15, 2019, Inside Climate News

A woman in Zimbabwe inspects a stunted cob in her dry maize field in March 2019. Eastern Zimbabwe has been struggling with drought-induced hunger, adding to the 2 billion people facing food insecurity around the world. Credit: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty
A woman in Zimbabwe inspects a stunted cob in her dry maize field in March 2019. Eastern Zimbabwe has been struggling with drought-induced hunger. An estimated 2 billion people currently face food insecurity around the world. Credit: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

The combined forces of climate change, conflict and economic stagnation are driving more people around the world into hunger, reversing earlier progress, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported on Monday.

Although the numbers fluctuate as economies rise and fall, conflicts come and go, and climate emergencies intensify and recede, the prevalence of hunger remains stubbornly high. In 2015, rates of hunger began to rise after decades of progress, and while the rates have now stabilized, the overall number of undernourished people is still rising as the population expands.

The FAO estimates that 820 million people suffered from malnourishment, up from 785 million in 2015. Overall, nearly 2 billion people face either moderate or severe food insecurity, meaning they don’t have regular access to nutritious food, the FAO reports.

“Economic shocks are contributing to prolonging and worsening the severity of food crises caused primarily by conflict and climate shocks,” the FAO warns in the new report.

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It finds that countries experiencing economic declines or those slow to recover from the 2008-2009 global economic downturn are seeing rising hunger and food insecurity. Those most severely affected are in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Western Asia, but hunger is also increasing in middle-income countries. Of the 77 countries where hunger levels rose, 66 experienced an economic slowdown or downturn between 2011 and 2017.

In previous reports, the FAO explored other primary drivers of hunger, including conflict and climate change. “Overall, it is hard to separate the contribution of each of the three drivers individually to prevalence of undernourishment. This is because economic shocks can directly contribute to undernourishment but also indirectly by exacerbating the effects of conflict and climate shocks,” explained Arif Husain, of the World Food Program, which co-published the new report.

“We do, however, know that in 2018 at least 113 million people experienced acute hunger at crises and emergency levels,” he said. “Conflict was the key driver for 74 million people; followed by climate vulnerability as the main reason for another 29 million people; and economic shocks as the primary driver for 10 million people.”

The report underscores the complex interplay among climate change, conflict and economic stagnation and their combined impact on malnourishment. In drought-ravaged parts of Central America for example, a prolonged drought is stoking higher hunger rates and migration to the region’s cities and northward to the United States.

The report also emphasized the urgent need for addressing the role of climate change in threatening global food production, particularly as the global population soars.

“We need food systems that are sustainable, nutritious, inclusive and efficient,” Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said Monday at UN headquarters in New York, where the report was released. “This means supporting a system that first protects the planet and second provides nutritious and diverse food.”

“It is crystal clear to me that any single project today has to automatically embed a climate change dimension,” Houngbo said. Otherwise, he said, any action you want to take will not be sustainable.

Climate Change Makes It Harder to End Hunger

Monday’s report is the latest this month to emphasize the profound impact of climate change on the ability to sustain the increasing demands of the global diet.

In its latest annual progress report on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by global leaders in 2015, the UN said the world was not on track to achieve the first two goals—reducing extreme poverty and ending hunger—largely because of climate change.

“The most urgent area for action is climate change,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin wrote in his introduction to the report.

“If we do not cut record-high greenhouse gas emissions now, global warming is projected to reach 1.5°C in the coming decades,” he wrote. “As we are already seeing, the compounded effects will be catastrophic and irreversible: increasing ocean acidification, coastal erosion, extreme weather conditions, the frequency and severity of natural disasters, continuing land degradation, loss of vital species and the collapse of ecosystems.”

The key to reducing hunger rates will be helping small-scale farmers become more resilient and better equipped to withstand climate-related weather extremes, the report said. But it noted that government spending on agriculture and aid to farmers from member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has fallen precipitously since the 1980s.

Much of Expected Crop Rise Will Go to Livestock

Last week, the OECD, along with the FAO, published another reportshowing that agricultural production is expected to rise 15 percent over the next decade, largely because of technological advancements.

Much of the expected increase in crop production will go toward livestock, feeding a growing demand for protein and dairy products, especially from developing countries and China.

That means agriculture’s carbon footprint will continue to be significant, the report says.

The findings also point to another important problem in global food distribution: That while agriculture production is on the rise, adequate nutrition doesn’t always reach people equally.

“Frankly, we already produce over 4 billion tons of food annually, of which a third is wasted,” Husain, of the World Food Program, explained. “Bottom line—we produce more than enough to feed everyone today despite all this waste. Increasing production is good but it won’t solve the hunger problem unless we make food affordable and accessible to all—particularly those living in conflict stricken places around the world.”

ICN reporter Nina Pullano contributed to this report from the UN.

Common Dreams Jul. 11, 2019 By Mallika Khanna

If you’ve read anything about climate change over the past year, you’ve probably heard about the IPCC report that gives a 12-year deadline for limiting climate change catastrophe. But for many parts of the world, climate change already is a catastrophe.

Recently in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, more than 40 people were killed by a severe heat wave in just one day. A study by UNICEF suggests that “in the next decade, 175 million children will be hit by climate-related disasters in South Asia and Africa alone.” Closer to home, Miami’s steady sinking is depleting usable drinking water at an alarming rate.

The truth is, vulnerable communities have been dealing with the effects of climate change and environmental pollution for decades now.

The 85-mile stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans — aptly nicknamed Cancer Alley — is a stark example. Thanks to petrochemical pollution there, Louisiana at one point suffered the second-highest death rate from cancer in the U.S., with some localities near chemical plants getting cancer from air pollution at 700 times the national average.

This is no accident: Corporations deliberately target places like Cancer Alley because they’re home to socially and economically disadvantaged people whom the corporations assume can’t fight back.

There’s even a name for it: “least resistant personality profiles.” Sociologist Arlie Hochschild discovered this term in a 1984 study done by a consulting firm to determine where a waste board could build a plant without local communities complaining.

According to the study, the people least likely to protest having their health put at risk were typically “longtime residents of small towns in the South or Midwest, high school educated only, Catholic, uninvolved in social issues, and without a history of activism, involved in mining, farming, ranching, conservative, Republican, advocates of the free market.”

While this study only tells part of the story, it does a lot to explain why poor communities face the worst consequences of climate change and pollution. These inequities cut across racial lines: As Hochschild’s study shows, “least resistant personalities” include small town, working-class white communities in the South and Midwest, as well as poor black people in places like Cancer Alley.

The problem isn’t just corporations, but government at all levels.

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the federal government did next to nothing. The comparison between the responses to 9/11 and Hurricane Maria — whose death tolls were almost exactly the same — highlights just how overlooked the suffering caused to marginalized communities by climate change is.

The idea that environmentalism is an “elite” concern is a lie. Those who stand to gain the most from sweeping environmental protections are the marginalized people corporations assume can be put in toxic environments without fear of backlash.

That’s the best reason yet to support a Green New Deal, which would not only curb climate change, but also revitalize the U.S. economy, create millions of jobs, and create alternatives to harmful, unsustainable industries like the petrochemical industry in Cancer Alley that have harmed people for years.

That could make poor communities a lot less poor — and a lot more resilient.

The only way to move forward is to fight back against corporations that deliberately target the people they think can’t fight back — and against a government seemingly unconcerned about the effects of pollution and climate change. The catastrophe is happening now, but so is the movement to combat it.

Green Energy@GreenEnergy

Could a Green New Deal Boost the Farm and Food Justice Movement? – EcoWatch http://bit.ly/2GBXXke 111:26 AM – Dec 26, 2018Twitter Ads info and privacyCould a Green New Deal Boost the Farm and Food Justice Movement?The Green New Deal will need copious amounts of political will, and there are only two ways to create that.ecowatch.com