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Climate Change Cuts World Food Outlook

Global warming will cut into world grain yields and result in less food being available in the developing world in 2050, a think-tank said on Sept. 29, calling for aggressive action to boost food output.

“Climate change increases child malnutrition and reduces calorie consumption dramatically,” said a report from the International Food Policy Research Institute, part of a global network of agricultural research centres.

For the average consumer in a developing country, IFPRI said, “calorie availability” will decline by seven per cent compared to 2000.

Higher temperatures reduce crop yields while encouraging pests and plant diseases. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will be hurt the hardest by declines in yields and production, IFPRI said.

It recommended an increase of $7 billion a year in public-sector spending on agricultural research, improvements in irrigation and farm-to-market roads to offset the impact of climate change.

“I think we will see significant increases in resources for this purpose,” said Gerald Nelson, IFPRI senior research fellow, during a telephone news conference. He said there was growing recognition at climate talks that agriculture would be affected greatly by climate change.

Research to enhance crop and livestock productivity, “including biotechnology, will be essential to help overcome stresses due to climate change,” said IFPRI. Nelson said biotechnology “is one option” but not the only approach for researchers.

World leaders have pledged more than $20 billion over three years to increase agricultural production in food-short nations.

For its report, IFPRI used two climate models to project grain and meat output in 2050. Both models call for higher temperatures but differ on how much precipitation would increase. One has higher temperatures and precipitation in China and the other has more rainfall in sub-Saharan Africa, for example.

“There is almost no difference in calorie outcome between the two climate scenarios,” IFPRI said.

For almost all crops, South Asia would see the largest declines in crop yields. IFPRI said rice output in South Asia would be 14 per cent lower than if there was no climate change.

In sub-Saharan Africa, wheat, rice and corn (maize) yields would drop by 34, 15 and 10 per cent respectively, IFPRI said.



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