Climate change is a hunger issue

People in low-income countries face the impact of climate change on a daily basis – even though they contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions. Erratic and more severe weather patterns affect their livelihoods and food security.

The effects of climate change are becoming more noticeable in wealthier parts of the world, but poor and marginalized communities, especially women and indigenous populations, in low-income countries are even more vulnerable than before to shocks beyond their control.

Climate change field school programs in the Philippines are part of the overall effort to educate and prepare small holder farmers on how to adapt and mitigate negative effects of projected weather changes. Photo: Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

Impacts of climate change

Climate change affects the types of crops that can grow well in certain areas and reduces access to land suitable to growing food or grazing animals.

It has brought new crop diseases and pests to some regions. The nutrient content of some crops has changed because of climate change, and water supplies in some regions are shrinking.

And, perhaps easiest to see, weather patterns are changing. Super-charged cyclones and hurricanes are increasing hunger from Africa to the United States. Mozambique and Puerto Rico, places already struggling with food insecurity before weather-related disasters hit, require aid to survive and rebuild.

In the highlands of Guatemala, chronic malnutrition affects roughly sixty-five percent of a primarily agrarian population and out-migration to the United States is increasing due to extreme drought and flooding.

Increased hunger and loss of livelihood force people to seek more habitable places to live. Since 2008, nearly 175 million people in developing countries have been displaced by climate-induced disasters—a number that continues to grow.

Climate change is also contributing to a growing number of conflicts. These conflicts have driven an increase in hunger in recent years, reversing a decade of progress. A record number of people are living in near-famine conditions.

 In rural Zambia USAID programs in paternship with the Zambian government is helping equip villagers with the knowledge of proper nutrients. Photo: Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

Who experiences climate change

Bread for the World advocates for people who are most threatened by climate change – people who are already hungry or at risk of hunger. The cost and availability of food affects these groups more than anyone else. In some countries, people in the lowest income group spend 75 percent or more of their incomes on food. Two such nations are Pakistan and Malawi.

Of those most threatened by climate change, women and girls bear the heaviest burdens. They must travel farther in search of water and firewood. They work land that is less fertile and may already be depleted.

Women and girls are also more threatened by natural disasters. For example, in many areas devastated by the 2004 South Asian tsunami, those who died were more likely to be female. In India’s Cuddalore district, nearly 90 percent of victims were women and girls.

Adapting to climate change requires many interconnected actions and policies. Building resilience in communities where people have always struggled to produce enough food needs to be a high priority as does identifying and adopting sustainable farming practices.

The global food system is already under tremendous pressure to be more productive and meet the needs of a growing global population. If countries cannot work together to find and implement solutions, ending hunger by 2030 will be out of reach and the encouraging progress against hunger of the past few decades will be lost.

Nearly 175 million people in developing countries have been displaced by climate-induced disasters since 2008

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  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

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  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

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