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Riots, Towns Gone Dry, Soaring Prices: The Food-Pocalypse Is Already Upon Us

March 31, 2014 in Blogs

By Richard Schiffman, The Guardian

If this sounds like fear-mongering from scientists, talk to the farmers.

The mother of all climate reports is so scary that one of its authors resigned from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in protest. “Farmers are not stupid,” the Sussex University economist Richard Tol said this past week, as hundreds of researchers cloistered away in Yokohama, Japan, hammering out the final wording of a document that he called “alarmist” when it comes to the many threats of global warming. The people who grow our food will find ways to adapt, said the rogue climate scientist at the most important climate science meeting in seven years.

But change isn't easy – especially not tectonic changes to the Earth. The final wording arrived today, and the IPCC report's most alarming projections make clear what many other studies have warned: the future of agriculture – of global hunger, of your grocery bill – is screwed. Or as UN secretary general Ban-Ki Moon put it rather more politely when he inaugurated the first rounds of the IPCC report last September: “The heat is on. We must act.”

Glaciers will continue to shrink in the Himalayas, according to the IPCC, severely impacting the availability of water for farming in vast areas of south Asia and China. Climate change will damage heat-sensitive crops like wheat and corn, and have a smaller impact on rice and soy production. Prices for essential staples will rise on the global market. Hunger will increase in large parts of Asia and Africa. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” predicted the IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri at a morning news conference.

The new report says that all of these very bad things will happen in future decades, as climate change picks up steam. But as I found out in east Africa last month, the future is already here for too many of the world's farmers. In Tanzania, the twice yearly seasonal rains upon which so many growers depend no longer come on time – and they're sporadic, drenching downpours at that, alternating with prolonged dry spells. …read more


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