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How will climate change affect what we eat?

By Oxfam
Delia Velasquez, 30, sells fresh vegetables in a farmers’ market in Cusco, Peru. Like others around the world, many farmers in highland Peru are facing changes in the climate that make it more difficult for them to grow crops. Photo: Percy Ramírez/Oxfam America

New research finds that changes in the climate could undermine the fight against global hunger.

Climate change could set the fight against world hunger back by decades, according to new research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Next week the group will release a major scientific report showing that the effects of climate change on food will be far more serious, and will hit much sooner, than previously thought.

In the face of this news, Oxfam analyzed how well countries around the globe are prepared to respond to changes in the climate. Hot and Hungry: How to stop climate change derailing the fight against hunger analyzes ten key factors that will influence countries’ ability to feed their people in a warming world. Across all ten areas, Oxfam found serious gaps between what governments are doing and what they need to do. The results also show that while many countries—both rich and poor—are unprepared for the impact of climate change on food security, the world’s poorest nations are least prepared and at greatest risk.

Meanwhile, climate change is already affecting what, when, and how much people eat. This year, for example, drought has ruined crops in Brazil’s southeastern breadbasket, including the valuable coffee harvest. In California, the worst drought in over 100 years is decimating crops across the state, which produces almost half of all the vegetables, fruits, and nuts grown in the US.

To fix the problem, governments, companies, and consumers must act now to cut greenhouse gas emissions, build communities’ resilience to hunger and climate change, and secure international agreements to tackle climate and hunger crises.

“California’s searing drought should show us that unless we change course, no country or company is immune to the havoc climate change will pose on what we eat,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “Hunger is not inevitable. If companies and governments get serious about slashing carbon pollution and preparing for rising temperatures, we can overcome this challenge.”