Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions needed to curb hunger

Riza Bernabe

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Climate change will intensify global hunger and the poor in developing countries will be the most vulnerable. Find out what we can do today.

Climate change will intensify global hunger.

This is what the forthcoming report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to show when it is presented in Yokohama, Japan by the end of this month.

This is dire news for Asia, where 552 million of the world’s hungry people lives, and where millions of families struggle to survive with less than $1.25/day.

The forecasted worsening impacts of climate change on food and agricultural production is expected to push more people, particularly small agricultural producers and women who produce food, to greater poverty and hunger.

How do we protect the most vulnerable in the face of this ominous forecast?

Poor and vulnerable

Poor people in developing countries are the most affected by climate change.

They do not have access to resources and technologies that can help them prepare and cope with the effects of changing climate patterns.

Their governments have limited resources to protect and provide them the necessary support and services to adapt to extreme weather events like droughts, storms and typhoons, and cope with slow on-set impacts like increases in temperature and sea level water rise, among others.

IN OUR HANDS. Oxfam says the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for a more sustainable future. Photo from Oxfam's blog (

Small agricultural producers, many of whom, do not have access to irrigation facilities and resources to replenish seeds, planting materials and agricultural inputs destroyed by climate induced floods and storms, and other climate related events find it difficult to recover from these events.

The damage to agricultural and food production normally extends to more than just one or two planting seasons, and has long-term impacts on many poor families’ food security, livelihood and welfare.

In the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation of crops, fisheries, livestock and agricultural infrastructure, partially estimated by the Philippine national government at P31.1 million, is expected to undermine food production and livelihoods for years to come.

‘Hot and hungry’

Women, who play key roles in attaining household food security and in food production, are especially vulnerable to climate change.

Many of them have to work harder to ensure that there is enough food and water on the table for their families.

An Oxfam paper “Hot and hungry – how to stop climate change derailing the fight against hunger” highlights ten areas that countries need to work on to enable them to feed their people in a world increasingly challenged by climate change.

It underscores the importance of addressing current gaps in international adaptation finance, crop insurance, crop irrigation, agricultural research and development, weather forecasting and agricultural investments.

It emphasizes the need for humanitarian aid, social protection, food stocks and policies addressing gender discrimination.  

All these interventions are expected to help countries address hunger, and build peoples’ and communities’ resilience to climate change.

READ: Oxfam Hot and Hungry Brief

However, the more strategic question is how can the world curb climate change so that it does not undermine the fight against hunger?

Is it possible to create a new future, one where run-away climate change is no longer the dominant scenario? What can we do to create this alternative tomorrow?

Bringing about this future requires ambitious reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.

At the global level, this requires passing and implementing an international agreement that delivers emission reduction targets consistent with what science says is necessary to stop catastrophic climate change.

Here in Southeast Asia, this entails moving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take an active role in the global negotiations, while encouraging its member states to adopt regional as well as national policies and programs on low carbon development, including the use of renewable energy.

It involves moving governments to invest in climate change adaptation and climate risk reduction.

At the personal level, this means making a commitment to reduce our carbon footprint as we go about our daily lives.

It is by building peoples’ resilience and by undertaking strategic actions to address climate change at all possible levels that we can help ensure that climate change does not undermine the goal of eliminating hunger.

Riza Bernabe is Oxfam’s East Asia GROW Campaign’s Policy and Research Coordinator.

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