Mapping climate change and food insecurity

Food Security26 Jul 2011Evert-jan Quak

A very interesting recent study by the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) looks in detail at which tropical areas of the world will be threatened most by climate change, pinpointing geographical hotspots that are the most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity.

The study named ‘Mapping Hotspots of Climate Change and Food Insecurity in the Global Tropics‘ identifies several vulnerable areas where, in fewer than 40 years, the prospect of shorter, hotter or drier growing seasons could imperil hundreds of millions of already impoverished people.

A series of detailed maps is the result of examining climate models and indicators of food and development problems. Some of the most striking conclusions are:

‘Southern Africa has the largest area (across Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa) with multiple threats, followed by northeastern Brazil, Mexico, Guyana, Nicaragua, and small areas in Tanzania, Ethiopia, the DRC, Uganda, India, and Pakistan, as well as the Middle East.’

‘Length of growing period declines by 5% or more across a broad area of the global tropics, including heavily cropped areas of Mexico, Brazil, Southern and West Africa, the Indo-Gangetic Plains, and Southeast Asia.’

‘Length of growing period flips to less than 120 days in a number of locations across the tropics, notably in Mexico, northeast Brazil, Southern and West Africa and India. This is a critical threshold for certain crops and rangeland vegetation; hence these are important target areas for high exposure to climate change.’

‘Reliable crop growing days decrease to critical levels, below which cropping might become too risky to pursue as a major livelihood strategy in a larger number of places across the global tropics, including West Africa, East Africa, and the Indo-Gangetic Plains. Much of the tropics already experiences highly variable rainfall, above the median of 21% for cropped areas. Thus any increases in this variability will make agriculture more precarious.’

‘Africa and south Asia are clearly much more chronically food insecure regions than Latin America or China.’

The study illustrates how important it is to coordinate knowledge about climate change, development and food security. The maps provide the opportunity to stimulate more in-depth research in threatened areas and show how important it is to bring together development and climate change communities; not only in science but also in policy-making and between specialised non-governmental organisations.