Report says global warming may cause 25m malnourished children by 2050

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

A new report on climate change's impact on agriculture predicts 25 million more malnourished children around the world by 2050, compared to a scenario with no global warming. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly vulnerable.

The report from the International Food Policy Research Institute projects that the the number of malnourished children will decrease by 10 million in the next 40 years. However, without global warming the report projects a decrease of 35 million. Forty percent of undernourished children will live in Africa.

The report compares economic and biological factors affecting child nutrition in two future scenarios — a world with and a world without climate change.

Gerard Nelson is lead researcher for the report at the International Food Policy Research Institute. He said that climate change will have a particularly strong impact on agricultural yields in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The food price crisis of last year really was a wake-up call to a lot of people that we are going to have 50% more people on the surface of the Earth by 2050. Meeting those demands for food coming out of population growth is going to be a huge challenge — even without climate change," Nelson said.

"On top of that, sub-Saharan Africa in particular is home to a large number of poor people. And one of the key messages to take home from our analysis is that with higher incomes people are more resilient to a variety of changes and that will be especially true for climate change."

The report says that in 2050 average wheat yields in sub-Saharan Africa will decline by up to 22 percent as a result of climate change. Irrigation water supply is also expected to decrease and less food availability will mean on average 500 calories less per person.

Without climate change, the report projected a rise in calorie availability in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2050.

Nelson says African governments need to prioritise investment in the agriculture sector, particularly in rural roads, research and new technologies. With the December 2009 climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, Nelson says African governments should focus on helping their farmers adapt to climate change.

"As the governments of sub-Saharan Africa prepare to go to the Copenhagen negotiations they should ensure that agriculture is included both in the adaptation funding mechanisms that will come out of Copenhagen as well as allow for the possibility that mitigation funds can be used in Africa," Nelson said.

The report says an additional investment in global agriculture of US$7 billion per year could increase production and counteract the adverse effects of climate change. The report says 40 percent of this investment should go to sub-Saharan Africa.