The troubling human toll of climate change
by Lies Craeynest, Oxfam’s EU Climate Change Expert
Climate change will leave families caught in a vicious spiral of falling incomes, rising food prices, and declining quality of food, leading to a devastating impact on the health of millions.
Oxfam’s new report Growing Disruption offers an up to date assessment of the links between climate change and the many causes of hunger. While there is increasing awareness that climate change can harm crop production, the report shows that its threat on food security is much broader, hitting incomes, food quality and human health in ways that are not yet well understood.
Our paper comes ahead of the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report this Friday. Final discussions between governments and scientists begin today are taking place this week in Stockholm. The IPCC is expected to confirm beyond doubt that climate change is not only happening, but that it is getting worse and that humans have caused the majority of it.
European leaders listening to the latest findings from climate scientists this week must remember that a hot world is a hungry world. They must take urgent action to slash emissions by securing a strong EU climate and energy package for 2030, and provide new money to help poor countries cope with these devastating climate impacts. European Environment and Finance Ministers, meeting next month ahead of the UN climate talks in Warsaw this November, should take note.
At a time when one in eight people are going hungry and demand for food is rising, climate change will not only reduce production, it will reduce the nutritional value of both crops and livestock, worsen human health and lead to higher FOOD prices. Climate change will mean that many more people will not be able to afford enough to eat and this toxic mix is likely to hit regions that are already suffering more from food insecurity. Such is the injustice of climate change that these are also regions and countries that have done nothing to cause climate change in the first place.
Just as the evidence of man-made climate change is becoming stronger, so too is our understanding of how it hits people and the food on their plates. Oxfam’s findings leave no doubt: we cannot eliminate hunger without also fighting climate change.