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Climate change driving world towards food crunch: experts
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Nov 16, 2011

Surging population growth and climate change are driving the planet towards episodes of worsening hunger which only an overhaul of the food system will fix, a panel of experts said on Wednesday.

"In the 21st century, as we are now we've got a major set of converging threats," said John Beddington, a British professor who chaired a 13-member nine-month probe.

"There's population growth, unsustainable resource use and big pressures on humanity to transform the way that we use food," Beddington said in a teleconference.

"But it is intimately linked to water issues and energy issues -- and of course with the major issue of climate change."

Beddington said that in 2007-8, a surge in food prices drove 100 million people into poverty, and 40 million more followed them in the 2010-2011 spike.

"There is a real concern about hunger, and there are consequences at the level where food price increases cause instability," he said.

The so-called Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change was set up in February by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an umbrella organisation funded by national governments, regional organisations and research foundations.

Drawing on published studies, the panel is offering guidance on how the world can be fed as its population rises from seven billion to more than nine billion in mid-century and diets shift to higher consumption of calories, fats and meat.

During this time, greenhouse gases emitted in past decades will have an inevitable effect on the climate system, adding to the risk of drought and flood.

"The challenge that's ahead of us globally is really quite hard even to comprehend," said Megan Clark, chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia.

"We must increase global food production by 2050 by some 30 to 80 percent and reduce our (carbon) emissions by half.

"To put it another way, as my children grow old over the next 60 years, we'll have to produce as much food as has been produced in human history and at the same time during that period, we will have to learn how to halve our emission rate from agriculture."

The panel released a "summary for policymakers," setting down seven recommendations. The full report will be issued early next year.

The proposals include a big focus on curbing waste through smarter supply chains, as roughly a third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted across the global food system.

Sustainable methods and support for poor, small farmers are also promoted. Costly over-use of fertilisers is cited as a problem, as are methods that wreck farmland.

"An estimated 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of agricultural land, and their potential for producing 20 million tonnes of grain, are lost each year to land degradation," said Lin Erda, director of the Research Centre of Agriculture and Climate Change at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Asked what role genetically-modified crops should play, Clark said, "the commission didn't set out to pick winners with regard to agriculture."

"We looked at the major factors that would enhance resilience, productivity and sustainable use," said Clark. "We really came to the conclusion that you need to diversify responses, all the way through from organic to genetic."

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Obama calls for China, India action on climate
Canberra (AFP) Nov 16, 2011 - US president Barack Obama Wednesday said he would be pushing for greater efforts by emerging economies on global warming at coming climate talks in South Africa, which he warned would be a "tough slog".

Obama described Australia's carbon tax, passed into law last week, as a "bold strategy" to tackle pollution and said he would be advocating that countries like China and India take greater responsibility at Durban.

"The advanced economies can't do this alone, so part of our insistence when we are in multilateral fora, and I will continue to insist on this when we go to Durban, is that if we are taking a series of steps then it's important that emerging economies like China and India are also part of the bargain," he said.

"It doesn't mean that they have to do exactly what we do, we understand that in terms of per capita carbon emissions they've got a long way to go before they catch up to us, but it does mean that they've got to take seriously their responsibilities as well," he told reporters on a trip to Australia.

High-level climate talks, due to start in Durban on November 28 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, are being called a make-or-break meeting for legally binding carbon emission reduction targets.

"Ultimately what we want is a mechanism whereby all countries are making an effort and it's going to be a tough slog, particularly at a time when a lot of economies are still struggling, but I think it's actually one that in the long-term can be beneficial," Obama said.

UNFCCC negotiations have made little progress since the stormy Copenhagen Summit of December 2009, which skirted disaster as leaders squabbled over how to share out cuts in carbon emissions.

"As we go forward over the next several years my hope is that the United States, as one of several countries with a big carbon footprint, can find further ways to reduce our carbon emissions," Obama said.

"I think that's good for the world. I actually think over the long-term it's good for our economies as well."

China and fellow major developing countries Brazil, India and South Africa in August issued a joint call for the Durban talks to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States is the only major nation to have rejected.


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Climate change in Africa's river basins could impede continent's farm transformation efforts
Tshwane, South Africa (SPX) Nov 16, 2011
Climate change could significantly alter water flows in major river basins in Africa, presenting a new barrier to nascent efforts to better manage water for food production and to resolve potential cross-border water conflicts all over southern Africa, according to research findings presented at this week's Third International Forum on Water and Food in Tshwane, South Africa. As part of a ... read more

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