Climate and World Hunger: Why the Poor Suffer Most

Climate change and natural resource depletion are causing the number of people suffering from hunger to rise following years of decline, according to three major reports.

Record food production and falling prices had generally boosted food security in recent years, the Economist Intelligence Unit said last week [26 September] in the latest edition of its annual index on global food security.

But it warned that fluctuating global economic growth, increasing inequality, political instability and forced migration were all damaging food security. Climate change and depletion of natural resources would aggravate the trend, severely threatening targets under the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate hunger by 2030, it said.

815 milion people

So seriously does the research group take the threat that it has added a new category to its index to understand the impact the risk to resilience to shocks on natural resources will have on global food security. Many countries scored more poorly when this category was taken into account, for example, Singapore dropped 15 spots in the country rankings due to its susceptibility to rising sea levels and high dependence on food imports.

Meanwhile, a UN report warned that 815 million people, or 11% of the world population, were going hungry in 2016. This was an increase of 38 million compared with the previous year, and was largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, it said.

Conflicts had risen dramatically in number and complexity over the past decade, and some of the highest proportions of children suffering from hunger and malnutrition were concentrated in conflict zones, the report stated.

Climate related shocks

The prevalence of hunger in countries affected by conflict is 1.4 – 4.4 percentage points higher than in other countries, while in conflict zones compounded by a degraded environment, the prevalence is 11 and 18 percentage points higher, the report stated.

“Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, conflicts seriously affect food security and are a cause of much of the recent increase in food insecurity,” it said.

However, even in more peaceful regions, droughts or floods linked in part to the El Niño weather phenomenon have also seen food security and nutrition deteriorate, they added.

World’s poorest suffer most

Oxfam’s head of food and climate change Robin Willoughby said: “This must act as a wake-up call for international leaders and institutions to do more to resolve the catastrophic cocktail of climate change and conflict around the world. Global failure to tackle these issues affects us all, but it’s the world’s poorest who will suffer most.”

Finally, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said that good harvests in Latin America and rebounding agricultural conditions in Southern Africa were improving global food supply, but that ongoing civil conflicts and climate-related shocks were affecting progress in reducing hunger.

The UN agency estimated that 37 countries are currently in need of food aid. Persisting conflicts have continued to acutely affect agricultural production and food security conditions. Weather shocks, including floods in West Africa, hurricanes in the Caribbean and droughts in parts of East Africa, have compounded the fragile conditions in some of the conflict-affected countries and also resulted in production shortfalls, reducing the amount of food available, its report stated.

Production of cereal crops was expected to rise moderately in 2017, but hurricane Irma was expected to depress production in the affected areas, particularly in the Caribbean islands, it added.

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and the former deputy editor of the environmentalist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.

This article originally appeared in The Ecologist.


More articles by:
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South