Climate variability and extremes are described as major contributors to the recent rise in global hunger. The WMO report says that “Climate change hits the most food-insecure people the hardest.
By Salam Rajesh
Global organizations deliberating on Climate Change negotiations happening around the world during the past few years have strongly voiced concerns on the failure to meet deadlines set at Paris five years back. This follows criticism over failure to meaningfully achieve any of the Aichi Targets agreed upon by all nations to slow down impacts of climate change. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO)’s secretary general Petteri Taalas puts his foot down saying, “The global temperature has already risen to 1°C above pre-industrial levels. The time left to achieve commitments under the Paris Agreement to remain within 2°C is quickly running out requiring immediate action”.
WMO’s report ‘2019 State of Climate Services’ while detailing critical priorities on the subject, states that analysis of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of member countries done by WMO and the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) found that the majority of countries highlighted agriculture, food security and water as top priority sectors for climate change adaptation. 85 percent of countries surveyed identified “climate services” as being a foundational element for planning and decision making in the area of agriculture and food security.
Elaborating on this need base, Petteri Taalas define WMO’s commitment as: “The Global Framework for Climate Services was created to provide the scientific basis for adaptation. Climate services investments overall have cost benefit ratio of 10:1. The provision of climate services at country level relies on a cascading global-regional-national Climate Information System operated by WMO. More coherent financing is needed specifically to complete this system. Financing invested holistically in the WMO cascading operational system provides a return on investment of 80:1”.
Climate variability and extremes are described as major contributors to the recent rise in global hunger. The WMO report says that “Climate change hits the most food-insecure people the hardest. Over 80 percent of the world’s food insecure people live in degraded environments exposed to recurrent extreme events like storms, floods, and drought. In a warming world, extreme climate conditions will become more frequent and severe”. Concurrent to this, the WMO report says that a recent FAO report estimated that the number of food insecure people in the world had declined from 2005 to 2014. However, the trend reversed in 2014. From 2014 to 2017, the number of undernourished or food insecure people grew from between 37 million to 122 million to more than 800 million.
The discussion that floats down to policy level is to give priority on integrating stakeholders from the agricultural sector at the local level to co-produce services for smallholder farmers. The finding suggests that blending of a networking of scientists, agricultural technicians, public and private sector stakeholders and local farmers can generate seasonal climate information, and develop recommendations to reduce the negative impacts of climate variations on agricultural production and livelihoods. This finding is applicable for all countries with specific focus on under-developed countries having large section of farmer community and other marginalized sections.
A priority focus is also on integrating climate services in the agriculture sector, more specifically in irrigated agriculture like terraced wet rice cultivation as in South East Asian countries where rice fields easily merge with tropical and sub-tropical rainforest cover. The strategy is to encourage tree cover interspersed with the terraced rice fields so that there is continuity with the green cover to achieve different end benefits from the forest ecosystem, such as rejuvenation of the water sources and e-flow of mountain streams. The uplands in the northern and the northeastern parts of Manipur, as in Senapati and Ukhrul districts, practice terraced wet rice cultivation integrated with fish culture. To sustain these agricultural fields, the locals practice conservation of springheads to maintain year-round water supply. The integration of forest covers to support the rice fields come close to addressing climate adaptation strategy at the grassroots in their own traditional system.
Nations that are failing to meet the Aichi Targets or the Paris Climate Agreement not surprisingly turn out to be the rich and the powerful ones – the United States, for instance. Countries like the US, Brazil, and Australia have come under criticism for supporting non-environment friendly policies such as encouraging extractive commercial activities, palm oil cultivation and cattle rearing on large scale. Deforestation of pristine forest lands, more emphatically rainforest areas, are naturally related to these activities, wherein heads of state like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro are known to have encouraged dilution of green laws to facilitate mining companies and other major corporate sectors.
The WMO report has bad news in stock for Asia, forewarning extreme climate events such as heat waves, tropical cyclones, floods and droughts that could increase risks arising from water supply scarcity, food production and food security, coastal and marine systems, ecosystem and human health. The warning by scientists that occurrence of cyclonic storms more frequently in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal region, as was warned in the Pacific and the South China Sea regions, have more or less turned out to be true with four to five cyclonic storms in quick succession occurring in a limited time period where once cyclonic storms were either rare or less frequent. This process has been related to oceans heating up due to increased rate of ice melts in the Arctic, where oceans freed from ice cover are now prone to heating up more faster as sunlight penetrates the under layers.
There is more bad news in store for the global community. The WMO report puts the facts hard across the table, “Global demand for food will increase by 50 percent and, in the absence of ambitious climate actions, yields may decline by up to 30 percent by the year 2050”. This sounds pretty bad with the world already experiencing food insecurity in many of the under-developed countries, with famine and hunger stalking the poor and the marginalized in poorer nations as in Latin America and South Asia. The focus of the United Nations is in achieving its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals to fight back poverty, hunger and discrimination especially in the under-developed countries. Addressing climate emergencies is seen as a solution to the process of changing climatic conditions that threaten livelihoods, food security, and sustainability of land and people.
Outlining the current global needs, the WMO report stresses that “institutional capacities need to be strengthened in many countries and in some regions, particularly to complete the climate services value chain for adaptation planning and decision making, and to document associated socioeconomic benefits. Additional research is needed to improve underlying predictions and projections as well as underlying observations and data, and to transition research results into operation”. Focused on improving the agricultural sector to enhance food security and livelihoods of local communities, the report gives due weightage on satellite based information services to achieve targets. Manipur needs to hook into this information technology base to achieve sustainability in food production and improvement in livelihoods.
(Salam Rajesh is an environmental activist and a senior journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)WMO report, Paris Climate Agreement deadlines