The cost and availability of food will be severely affected by increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change, says a report by Oxfam on global food production.
More droughts, floods and heatwaves and rising sea levels will have irreversible effects on the world’s food supply chain, affecting the availability of crops ranging from rice and corn to coffee, the report says.
The average price of food, including staples, is forecast to double in 20 years, in part due to erratic weather patterns and an acute decline in rainfall caused by shifting climates. Crop quality can also be expected to drop.
The Oxfam report comes days before the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is due to release its latest report on global warming. The report, the first since 2007 by the IPCC, is expected to show increased certainty that the planet is heating up and that humans are mainly responsible.
The price of corn from the Americas and Africa could rise by as much as 120 per cent by 2030, the Oxfam report says.
Last year, global corn prices rose by 40 per cent after the US midwest experienced its worst drought in 50 years. Prices of rice from India and south-east Asia could increase as much as 25 per cent if these regions experience poor harvests brought on by droughts and flooding.
Unless serious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are made globally, there will be significant rises in food prices, falling incomes, and growing poverty, said Oxfam climate change advocacy co-ordinator Simon Bradshaw.
“Climate change is no longer a future threat,” he said. “A hot world is a hungry world. This can certainly affect all of us in Australia.”
The destruction caused by severe droughts and floods is already being felt in Pakistan, Russia, the US, China, Kazakhstan and Britain, where crop losses worsen scarcity and trigger price spikes.
Climatologists at Britain’s Met Office Hadley Centre found the 2011 drought in east Africa, which affected more than 13 million people and killed more than 250,000, was partly caused by global warming.
Since 2004, the region has had four droughts. Evidence points to climate change continuing to have significant effects on its food production.
“Without urgent action to reduce emissions and build resilience, climate change will challenge the safety and security of the global food system and with it the prospect of ensuring that everyone’s basic human right to food can be met,” the report says.
Australia’s new Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, told Sky News on Sunday that he would wait until the IPCC meeting in Stockholm before making a statement on the broader issue of climate change. Mr Hunt said the Coalition government would reach a 5 per cent reduction target by 2020, but without the carbon tax.