Climate and Food: The Entangled Global Problems

  • 26 March 2014

World’s food production needs to increase 60 percent by the middle of this century to meet the needs of its growing population, which is expected to increase by about 2.3 billion by this time, according to the latest report issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization. As we witness issues related to climate change, rising temperatures, varying patterns of rainfall, and natural disasters in different parts of the world, especially in agricultural crop producing regions, it suggests that the world is on the verge of what could be described as possibilities of a global famine.

Climate change continues to damage agricultural produce, which undermines efforts to increase food security. The most significant problem has been the rising sea levels, which cause frequent floods in coastal as well as other areas in some parts of the world. This is in addition to declining rainfall, resulting in drought like conditions in farming areas, and the spread of desertification. Climate change is leading to another environmental problem, which is redefining the farming map, turning areas suitable for farming into unsuitable ones, and vice versa. The resources needed to compensate this loss cause a major dilemma.

Climate change is not just affecting global agricultural potential it is also threating global food security. There are two factors related to this. First is poor agricultural policies and economic potential and poor quality of government agricultural services, especially in developing countries. This causes a decline in the quality of farming in many areas, as well as farmers’ adoption of traditional means of farming, poor management and depletion of global agricultural resources such as water. Unregulated use of groundwater stocks has caused depletion of about one-fifth of its stocks globally.

The second factor limiting the potential of farming globally is the unstable security and political environment in many parts of the world, especially in countries that produce agricultural crops such as Russia, Ukraine, Pakistan, and Sudan. Disruption of production in these countries makes exports irregular. Attention has to be given to these factors if real progress is to be made on the issue of global food security. Greater effort and increased global coordination is the need of the hour. Innovative efforts are needed to tackle problems linked to climate change as they relate to changing lifestyles and development models in some countries. We must understand that not dealing seriously with environmental issues would make things go out of hand and lead to a real food crisis.