GROWING DISRUPTION: Climate change, food, and the fight against hunger

The world faces a real and imminent risk of major setbacks in efforts tocombat hunger because of climate change. That risk is not a remote futurethreat. It is emerging today and will intensify over the coming decades.Using the accepted four pillars of food security – availability, access,utilisation, and stability – this issue brief draws on research and on Oxfam‟sprogramme experience around the world to assess how climate change islikely to disrupt each of these four elements.1 The paper sets out how climaticinstability in the form of more extreme and volatile weather is alreadyundermining food security. It also shows how in the absence of urgent action,it will load far more significant challenges onto already stressed foodsystems. Greenhouse gas emissions are changing the world‟s climate by trappingheat, warming the oceans and the atmosphere, altering regional climates,and creating increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather. The probabilityof extreme weather events is increasing. The odds of an extremely hotnorthern hemisphere summer were about one in 300 during the period 1951to1980, but increased to nearly one in ten by 1981 to2010.3 If the remainderof the 21st century unfolds like its first decade, we will soon experienceclimate extremes well outside the boundaries of human experience, eversince agriculture was first developed.Despite global recognition that warming must be kept below the critical 2°Cthreshold, emissions are rising rapidly, and much higher levels of warmingare likely. The earth's atmosphere has just reached a carbon dioxide (CO2)concentration of 400 parts per million for the first time in about three millionyears. The last time levels were so high, global temperatures were 2–3°Cwarmer than they are today, and sea levels were up to 25 metres higher.4 

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