Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Climate Change a 'Key Driver' Behind Rising Global Hunger

Climate
Climate Change a 'Key Driver' Behind Rising Global Hunger
Climate extremes such as drought are a 'key driver' of global malnutrition. Pixabay

The number of hungry people in the world has reverted to levels last seen a decade ago, the United Nations warned Tuesday in its annual report on food security and nutrition.

Nearly 821 million global citizens—or one out of every nine people—were undernourished in 2017, the third consecutive rise since 2015. Hunger affected 804 million people in 2016 and 784 million people in 2015.


Hunger worsened in South America and most regions of Africa, while decreasing trends in undernourishment in Asia has slowed down, the report shows.

According to the report, the "key drivers" behind the rise in hunger include climate variability, which affects rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, as well as climate extremes such as droughts and floods. Conflict and economic slowdowns also contributed to the increasing undernourishment.

Climate change has already been shown to undermine production of staple crops such as wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions, and the predicted rise in global temperatures will worsen output even further.

Notably, the study shows that the countries that are the most exposed to climate extremes tend to have a higher prevalence and number of undernourished people.

The report only covers the year 2017 and does not take 2018's record-breaking heatwaves, flooding and wildfires into account.

Robin Willoughby, head of food and climate policy at Oxfam GB, told The Guardian that the extreme weather in the last few months has likely made global hunger worse.

"The extreme weather we have seen this year is likely to have exacerbated the crisis," he said. "A hotter world is proving to be a hungrier world."

The report also showed that obesity is on the rise, with more than one in eight adults in the world considered obese. The problem is the most significant in North America, but Africa and Asia are also experiencing an upward trend, the report shows.

Obesity is also a form of malnutrition. As a press release for the report points out: "Undernutrition and obesity coexist in many countries, and can even be seen side by side in the same household. Poor access to nutritious food due to its higher cost, the stress of living with food insecurity, and physiological adaptations to food deprivation help explain why food-insecure families may have a higher risk of overweight and obesity."

The rising rates of global hunger threatens the UN's Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.

"The alarming signs of increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition are a clear warning that there is considerable work to be done to make sure we 'leave no one behind' on the road towards achieving the SDG goals on food security and improved nutrition," the heads of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the UN Children's Fund, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization warned in the report's joint foreword.

The leaders also issued a call to action to break the cycle of malnutrition.

"If we are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, it is imperative that we accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people's livelihoods in response to climate variability and extremes," they said.

Plastic bails, left, and aluminum bails, right, are photographed at the Green Waste material recovery facility on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in San Jose, California. Aric Crabb / Digital First Media / Bay Area News via Getty Images

By Courtney Lindwall

Coined in the 1970s, the classic Earth Day mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has encouraged consumers to take stock of the materials they buy, use, and often quickly pitch — all in the name of curbing pollution and saving the earth's resources. Most of us listened, or lord knows we tried. We've carried totes and refused straws and dutifully rinsed yogurt cartons before placing them in the appropriately marked bins. And yet, nearly half a century later, the United States still produces more than 35 million tons of plastic annually, and sends more and more of it into our oceans, lakes, soils, and bodies.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
Trending
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less