15 October, 2009

Hunger And Climate Change


Share Our Strength has already committed itself to ending childhood hunger in America by 2015. This goal is entirely reachable and we fully intend on fulfilling our promise.
Our founder, Billy Shore, explains our commitment succintly: “Pick a cause big enough to matter, yet small enough to accomplish.” Ending childhood hunger in America is one such cause, and it is the end toward which we all work for each and every day.
But of course hunger goes beyond America’s borders, and the logical next step after eradicating domestic hunger is to replicate our methods in other developed countries that are similarly afflicted. (This process-oriented approach is, after all, what we are known for with our state partnerships.) Yet even these next steps may not help the larger issue of hunger in under-developed nations.
The progress we as a culture have made in fighting hunger in developing nations is impressive so far, but one looming issue threatens to take away all that we’ve accomplished to date: global climate change.
The truth about how climate change will affect world hunger is staggering. According to a recent report by the International Food Policy Research Institute, “By 2050, the decline in calorie availability will increase child malnutrition by 20 percent relative to a world with no climate change. Climate change will eliminate much of the improvement in child malnourishment levels that would occur with no climate change.” [emphasis added]
But if you think that’s bad, then consider this: Calorie availability in 2050 will not only be lower than in the no–climate-change scenario—it will actually decline relative to 2000 levels throughout the developing world. Projections like this make it difficult to imagine a world without hunger in developing countries anytime soon. All the progress we’ve made so far can easily be wiped out due to climate change alone.
According to a recent issue brief by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (PDF), due to the combination of a world population increase to 9 billion by 2050, more people eating meat and dairy products which are wasteful of crop resources, and an increase of farmland being used for biofuels, overall food production will need to increase by some 70 percent more than the 2005-07 output.
An increase like this would be utterly staggering. To cover this alone would cost over $7 billion annually, according to the IFPRI. But that’s nothing compared to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010 figure of $75 billion needed annually to control the other myriad effects of climate change.
Of course, these projected costs are by no means definite. Though climate change is a definite reality, the magnitude of its effects are not easy to predict. The difference between a 2°C and a 5°C change in global temperature is nothing short of monumental. According to a recent report by Oxfam (PDF), it would take a huge amount of political will just to muster only a 2°C change, and even in that rosy scenario, over 660 million people could be forced into devastating conditions. And if we follow our present course, we can expect a 5°C temperature rise, which (the report says) means human population levels could be reduced to just one billion people by the end of the century.
These projections can give one pause. But we must find the will to continue doing what we can to help the problem. Hunger must be combated at every stage, on every side, by everyone. While it’s true that by 2015, nearly 200 million people may be forced to migrate due to lack of food, at least we can know that in America, every child will be surrounded by nutritious food wherever they live, learn, and play.
And from there, we will move on to the next problem. Because that’s what Share Our Strength does.

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