Tag Archives: Climate change

Climate Change and World Hunger

By David Braughton

Climate Change and the World’s Poor

For the 821 million people across the globe who face chronic hunger, climate change is no theory, but an ever-present reality.  Fully 80% of the world’s chronically hungry and malnourished people live in rural areas, surviving only on the food they grow from their rain-dependent farms.  Variability in the amount of rainfall, when the rain falls, days between rainfall, or daily temperatures – all the result of climate change – can quickly transform what is at its best a marginal existence into almost certain starvation.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) 2018 report, The State of Nutrition and Food Security in the World: Building Climate Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition, devotes 75 pages of its 112 page publication documenting climate change as a major contributor to the recent increase in global hunger and food insecurity following a decade-long decline in the number of hungry people around the world.  In 2014, the incidents of chronically hungry people had declined from 945 million to an estimated 784 million. By 2017, the count had risen to 821 million, an increase of 37 million people!

With respect to climate change, the 2018 FAO report offers 4 key messages:

  • Climate variability and exposure to more complex, frequent and intense climate extremes are threatening to erode and even reverse the gains made in ending hunger and malnutrition.
  • Climate variability and extremes are a key driver behind the recent rise in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe food crises.
  • Severe droughts linked to the strong El Niño of 2015–2016 affected many countries, contributing to the recent uptick in undernourishment at the global level.
  • Hunger is significantly worse in countries with agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability and severe drought, and where the livelihood of a high proportion of the population depends on agriculture. (FAO 38)

Climate change occurs over decades, even centuries, and may not be readily observable.  What can be observed are climate variability and extremes, the incidents of which have more than doubled since 1990, which climate change produces.  Averaging 213 events a year between 1990 and 2016, extreme heat, droughts, floods and severe storms have compromised the availability, access to, and stability of food production around the world.  Climate-related disasters have become so frequent that they now make up more than 80 percent of all major internationally reported disasters. (FAO 39)

Over the past century, the world has become measurably warmer and the incidents of extreme heat more numerous, resulting in lower labor output, increased mortality rates, and lower crop yields.  Rainfall has similarly become less predictable with vast areas of the globe experiencing below normal levels and other areas receiving above normal levels. The result has been long-term drought in large sections of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, and flooding in other areas, such as South and Southeast Asia.   When the rains come, how long they last and when they stop is also changing.  For example, the FAO states that “in the Afram Plains region of Ghana, farmers are noticing delays in the onset of the rainy season, mid-season heatwaves and high-intensity rains that cause flooding, which are resulting in crop loss, low yields and reduced availability of household food.” (FAO 45)

Tragically, 95% of low- and moderate-income countries experienced climate extremes between 2011 and 2016, with 40% of these countries, such as Côte D’Ivoire, experiencing 3 or 4 extreme events during this period. (FAO pg. 54) Why is this tragic?  Because the more climate shocks that a country experiences, especially if its people are already poor or of modest means, the higher the likelihood of chronic malnutrition and serious hunger.  Nearly 600 million of the estimated 821 million people who don’t get enough to eat on a daily basis, live in a country that has experience floods, droughts, storms, extreme heat, or all the above!

The consequences of climate shocks (climate variability and extremes), as the FAO report calls them, are often devastating and only serve to exacerbate people’s tenuous grasp on survival.   In nearly every instance, countries, which have experienced climate extremes, have also experienced increased food insecurity and malnutrition.  The amount of goods and services available to people quickly dwindle, further reducing their ability to cope and adapt to these changes.  Long term or recurrent extremes can result in loss of livelihoods and destitution and may prompt mass migrations.  A downward spiral begins that is difficult to reverse. As the climate changes even more, people become less and less capable of adapting.

Promoting Resilience

Resilience, put simply, is the capacity to bounce back after a disaster or setback.  The FAO 2018 report discusses the need for coordinated planning and policy development, scientific risk assessment, and system change, as fundamental to improving people’s resilience around the globe.  The FAO suggests a number of short-term interventions in the way people grow their food, the kinds of food they grow and the importance of local participation, and gender-based approaches.  Many, if not most of these suggestions are already being implemented through Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) funded programs.

In Sudan, BGR is partnering with Oxfam America to help 500 households return to farming and to adopt improved farming techniques that will not only produce enough food for their needs but provide a surplus that can be sold at market.  Farmers will be provided with crop seeds and agricultural tools and trained in water harvesting techniques as well as suitable methods of vegetable gardening that enable farmers to increase production. (Sudan)

A partnership between BGR and Oxfam India, “Prosperity through Resilient Agriculture,” funded entirely by BGR, focuses on women farmers in 25 villages.  Women are helped to access government assistance while learning climate resilient farming practices to increase crop yields.  As women become proficient in the new techniques, they train other women in their community, thus assuring the eventual spread of both better harvests and a surplus crop that can be sold at market! (India)

BGR has joined with Action Against Hunger to promote agricultural diversification and food access in the Preah Vihear province in Cambodia.  This innovative project again trains model farmers (most of them women) in 22 villages in agroecology for home gardening and climate-resilient rice production. Model farmers have their own garden and commit to training other women once they’ve mastered the basic approach and shown real results. (Cambodia)

The FAO report makes clear that while the global situation is dire, it is not hopeless.  We have the technical knowledge and resources to reverse the recent increase in malnourished and starving women, children and men.  What is needed now are more organizations like BGR and people like you who support us to be:

… inspired by the vision of a world in which debilitating poverty has finally been banished; a world in which all can avail themselves of the basic material supports of a meaningful life—food, clothing, housing, and health care; a world in which everyone can achieve a satisfactory level of education and freely pursue that which gives their life value and purpose; a world in which all people dwell in peace and harmony with one another and with the natural environment.

May I be a good doctor for those who suffer from illness,
a guide for those who have gone astray,
a lamp for those who dwell in darkness,
a source of treasure for those in poverty and need.”
Vows of Samantabhadra, Avatamsaka Sutra

David Braughton is the vice-chair of Buddhist Global Relief. During his professional career he led a number of nonprofit agencies involved with mental health, trauma, and child development. 

Advertisements

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World

By David Braughton

In September, 2015, United Nations members participating in a summit on sustainable development adopted a bold and far-reaching agenda whose goal was nothing less than the promotion of prosperity and the elimination of global poverty and hunger by 2030.

This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. We recognize that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, United Nations Sustainability Summit, September 25, 2015)

This year, as last, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, issued a report documenting progress towards the 2030 goal.  This year’s report,  The State of Nutrition and Food Security in the World: Building Climate Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition, provides an overview of hunger and malnutrition from two perspectives: the prevalence of undernutrition (a statistical estimate of chronic hunger within a population) and a more subjective accounting of food insecurity using a survey called the Food Insecurity Scale.  The report goes on to examine the impact of global warming and climate change as a leading contributor of increased hunger, particularly in Africa and South America.

In this and future articles, we’ll share findings from the FOA report, examine hunger’s effect on kids and pregnant women, and delve further into how climate change is contributing to the reversal of a ten-year decline in the number of hungry people worldwide. Finally, we will look at some of the countries where BGR is sponsoring projects to see how their people are doing and why these projects are so essential. Continue reading

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint through Change of Diet

By Randy Rosenthal

Embed from Getty Images

 

What’s the best way to reduce your carbon footprint? A new influential study recently published in Science says: Go vegan.

The study is described as “the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet.” To come to their conclusions, the authors J. Poore and T. Nemecek looked at data covering nearly 40,000 farms and 16,000 processors, packagers, and retailers. This means they studied the impact of the meat and dairy industry, from the bottom up, rather than the previous top-down approach using national data, which is why this study is so profoundly revealing. In doing so, they determined that without meat and dairy consumption, we could reduce global farmland use by more than 75% and still feed the world.

This conclusion rests on their finding that livestock uses 83% of all available farmland and produces 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions, yet meat and dairy consumption provide only 18% of our calories and 37% of protein. Based on this study, it seems that eliminating meat and dairy consumption from our diets is the best way to reduce our environmental impact. According to Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the research: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading

Girls’ Education as a Key to Combating Climate Change

By Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Project Drawdown describes itself as “the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.” The Project brought together a group of top researchers from around the world to identify, research, and model “the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change.” The resulting plan provides “a path forward that can roll back global warming within thirty years.” The solutions to reversing climate change, the website says, “are in place and in action.” The purpose of the Project is “to accelerate the knowledge and growth of what is possible.”

Somewhat surprisingly, in the Project’s ranking of solutions to climate change, in the sixth place is educating girls. This item ranked higher than several of the more familiar solutions often proposed by the experts. It ranks higher than solar farms and rooftop solar (nos. 8 and 10, respectively), regenerative agriculture (no. 11), nuclear power (no. 20), electric vehicles (no. 26), LED lighting (no. 33), and mass transport (no. 37). Continue reading

Winning the Peace: Hunger and Instability

Winning the peaceAn increasingly hungry world is increasingly unstable. A new report issued by the World Food Program USA—Winning the Peace: Hunger and Instability—presents an unprecedented view into the dynamics of the relationship between hunger and social instability.[1]

Based on exhaustive interdisciplinary queries of a database of 90,000,000 peer-reviewed journal articles, the report explores the underpinnings and drivers of humanitarian crises involving food insecurity and conflict. Continue reading

The World Reverses Progress on Global Hunger

By Charles W. Elliott

The newest U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (“FAO”) Annual Report on food security sends a “clear warning signal” of a troubling trend that reverses a long period of progress combating world hunger.

After A Prolonged Decline, World Hunger and Food Insecurity Worsen

FAO 2017 Food Security Report Cover

The 132-page data-rich report, The State of Food Security And Nutrition In The World 2017: Building Resilience For Peace And Food Security [1] notes that for the first time in many years the number of chronically malnourished people across the globe—as well as those suffering from acute hunger—has increased from the prior year, reversing a prolonged historic decline in world hunger. The number of undernourished people jumped from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016. Every continent except Europe and North America has suffered an increase in prevalence of malnutrition. The report identifies a variety of causes for this reversal and highlights the interrelationships between global hunger, armed conflict, and climate change.

Emerging from the data is a stark picture of 44,000,000 more people now suffering from severe food insecurity than there were just two years ago. In fact, nearly one in ten people around the world, about 689 million people, now suffers from severe food insecurity. (see Report, Table 2). The people of Africa suffer the highest levels of severe food insecurity—27.4 percent of the population, four times that of any other continent.
Continue reading

Moral Vision as the Foundation for Global Well-Being

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

The Buddhist contingent at the People’s Climate March in New York City, September 2014

All the classical spiritual traditions of humankind are confronted by the simple but undeniable fact that we are living at a critical time when the future of human life on earth is in serious jeopardy. Dark clouds have gathered on the horizon, and we can see them in every direction. One dark cloud is the ever-widening inequality in wealth between the rich and the poor—the inequality that is driven by a neoliberal economic system that funnels more and more of the world’s wealth into the hands of a small powerful elite, who manipulate governments and international law for their own advantage. Another dark cloud is the volatile financial system, which treats the world’s vital resources such as food, water, and land as objects of financial speculation, leaving millions of people around the world hungry, landless, and homeless, burdened with oppressive debt. Still another is the persistence of wars: regional wars that are seemingly interminable and generate new terrorist groups almost as soon as the older ones bite the dust; the specter of all-out nuclear war just the press of a button away. And still another cloud takes the form of the all-seeing surveillance state, which uses the new electronic technologies to snoop into every aspect of our private lives.

Perhaps the darkest cloud of all is climate change, which has been transforming the natural environment in ways that imperil the future of human civilization. The accelerating changes to the planet’s climate, and the rapid depletion of our natural resources such as water, soil, and food, call not only for pragmatic remedies but also for a robust moral response. Our moral responsibility now extends beyond the narrow confines of our national borders to people throughout the world. In every continent people are already being bludgeoned by the impact of a warmer, stranger, more violent planet. Indeed, those who face the harshest consequences of climate change are the people least responsible for it: the simple farmers and villagers of of southern Asia, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. The impacts of climate disruption occurring now extend down the line to future generations, who will have to inherit the legacy of planetary devastation that we leave behind. Our responsibility also extends to non-human beings, to the countless other species that face the loss of their natural habitats and the threat of imminent extinction.
Continue reading