How does climate change affect farming and food security?

Women carry belongings salvaged from their flooded home after monsoon rains in the Qambar Shahdadkot, Pakistan, on September 6, 2022. (AP/File)
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Updated 01 December 2023
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How does climate change affect farming and food security?

  • As fossil fuel emissions heat the planet, they are driving extreme weather from heavy rains and droughts to heatwaves
  • Such events can affect crops, ruin farmland and make it harder for farmers to work, threatening everyone’s access to food

LONDON: As impacts from prolonged droughts to extreme heat worsen, climate change is threatening the world’s ability to produce enough nutritious food and ensure everyone has access to it. 

At COP28 in Dubai, more than 130 country leaders on Friday called for global and national food systems to be rethought to address climate change — the first such official recognition at a UN climate summit of growing worries about food security and planet-heating emissions from agriculture. 

Here’s how global food systems and climate change affect each other, and what might be done about rising risks: 

How is climate change threatening food security? 

As fossil fuel emissions heat the planet, they are driving more extreme weather — from heavy rains and droughts to heatwaves — as well as gradual sea level rise. All can affect crops, ruin farmland and make it harder for farmers to work. 

A warming climate also is bringing crop diseases and pests into new locations or making infestations more severe, ruining more harvests and reducing yields. 

Such problems, combined with other pressures on food systems — from growing conflict to crop export restrictions by food-producing countries and speculation in markets — mean food is becoming less affordable and more people are going hungry. 

The UN World Food Programme estimates that 333 million people face “acute” food insecurity in 2023 in the 78 countries where it works — a huge boost from about 200 million prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 




Alex Flores walks on a dry area of Lake Titicaca, Latin America's largest freshwater basin, as it is edging towards record low levels, on Cojata Island, Bolivia on October 26, 2023. (REUTERS/File)

Crop failures are not a new phenomenon, with surpluses in some regions long making up for shortfalls in others, but scientists fear stronger climate impacts could drive simultaneous failures across major global “breadbaskets,” resulting in a swift rise in global hunger. 

What is being done to address these threats? 

Around the world, many farmers are adapting to climate extremes in a variety of ways, from digging irrigation ponds to trap floodwater and store it for dry times, to adopting new climate-smart seeds and bringing back hardy traditional crops. 

But some challenges — such as more frequent and extreme heatwaves that can make it difficult for farmers to work outside — are harder to counter. 

Money to help small-scale farmers — who supply about a third of the world’s food — adapt to climate risks is also falling dramatically short. 

In 2021, they received only about $2 billion, or 0.3 percent of total international climate finance from public and private sources, according to Amsterdam-based think-tank Climate Focus. 

With little outside help available, many such farmers — who have contributed little to the emissions heating up the planet — are paying the costs of climate adaptation themselves. 

The Climate Focus survey of 13 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America found nearly 440 million small-scale farmer households now spend about $368 billion annually on adaptation costs, or about $838 each per year. 

Analysts say efforts to shore up global food security also need to reach well beyond farms, to try to rein in speculators in food markets, discourage export clampdowns and revamp increasingly overwhelmed humanitarian aid systems. 

Can we find ways to grow more food to make up for the losses? 

Expanding the amount of land being farmed — or boosting the use of fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and developing new crop varieties — have long been accepted ways to grow more food. 

But agricultural land expansion often comes at the expense of forests and other natural ecosystems that are critical to conserve because their vegetation absorbs and stores climate-heating carbon dioxide emissions in order to grow, helping to curb climate change. 

For example nearly 20 percent of the vast Amazon rainforest has now been lost, largely to soybean farming and cattle ranching. 

Scientists fear additional deforestation could over time turn the forest into a dry savanna, imperiling rainfall for agriculture across South America — and sabotaging the world’s climate and biodiversity protection goals. 

Efforts to intensify the amount of food grown on a set land area have shown some success but often require large amounts of expensive fossil fuel-based fertilizers. 

In recent years, however, more environmentally friendly farming methods are gaining new adherents, from the United States to India. 

But food analysts say the best way to increase global supplies is not to grow more but to reduce the huge amount of food wasted each year. 

While the world produces enough food for everyone, about a third of it is lost or wasted along the supply chain from field to fork, according to the United Nations, which says the average person wastes 74 kg (163 lb) of food each year. 


Spanish politician shot in Madrid points finger at Iran

Updated 57 min 35 sec ago
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Spanish politician shot in Madrid points finger at Iran

  • Alejo Vidal-Quadras was shot in the face in broad daylight near his home in the upscale Salamanca neighbourhood on November 9 by a motorcycle passenger
  • "I have no doubt that it was the Iranian regime," the 78-year-old, who was European Parliament vice-president between 2009 and 2014, told a news conference

MADRID: A right-wing Spanish politician who was shot in November in Madrid on Friday accused Iran of being behind his attempted murder during his first public appearance since the attack.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a founder of Spain's far-right Vox party and former head of its centre-right People's Party in Catalonia who has long supported Iran's opposition movement, was shot in the face in broad daylight near his home in the upscale Salamanca neighbourhood on November 9 by a motorcycle passenger.
"I have no doubt that it was the Iranian regime," the 78-year-old, who was European Parliament vice-president between 2009 and 2014, told a news conference in the Spanish capital.
Tehran has "a long tradition, a track record, of extraterritorial terrorist activities" against "dissidents and against foreigners who support then," he added, without offering any proof to back up his claim.
Four people have been arrested as part of the investigation into the shooting, but the suspected gunman -- a French national of Tunisian origin with several previous convictions in France, remains at large.
Police have not commented on a possible motive for the shooting.
Vidal-Quadras, who already pointed the finger at Iran when he was questioned by police after the shooting, said it was a "miracle" that he survived.
"I made a movement of my head that meant that the shot, which was supposed to be fatal, was not," he said.
The bullet entered one side of his jaw and exited the other, and Vidal-Quadras spent time in hospital recovering from a jaw fracture.
"The detonation sounded like a thunderclap in my head, in fact I have a perforated eardrum, and I started bleeding, it caused a puddle on the floor," he said.
Vidal-Quadras said he believes the quick intervention of a passer-by, who stopped the bleeding with a piece of clothing, saved his life.
He said he has suffered from after-effects since the shooting, including "some paralysis of the facial muscles".
Vidal-Quadras, a top member of the International Committee in Search of Justice which supports the "Iranian resistance", has long called for the international community to harden its position towards Iran.


Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta

Updated 23 February 2024
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Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta

  • Some 21 migrants were rescued and taken to a migrant center
  • They are believed to be from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt

VALLETTA, Malta: Five migrants, including a woman, died when their boat capsized as they were being rescued off Malta on Friday, the island’s armed forces said.
Another eight were injured and taken to hospital, including two who swallowed a considerable amount of seawater and fuel.
Armed Forces of Malta deputy commander Col. Edric Zahra told reporters that the incident happened at about midday when the eight-meter (26-ft) boat was four miles (6.5 km) south of Malta.
Some 21 migrants were rescued and taken to a migrant center. They are believed to be from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt.
Mediterranean sea crossings from North Africa to Italy or Malta are among the most dangerous migration routes in the world. Last year almost 2,500 migrants died or went missing on those routes, the International Organization for Migration says.
The vast majority of migrants head for Italy. Malta’s armed forces rescued 380 migrants at sea last year, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said in parliament in January.


Russia says its forces push further west after taking Ukraine’s Avdiivka

Updated 23 February 2024
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Russia says its forces push further west after taking Ukraine’s Avdiivka

  • Russian forces had also destroyed a number of Western-provided Ukrainian weapons
  • The frontlines in the war had not shifted substantially since late 2022 before the taking of Avdiivka

MOSCOW: Russian forces have advanced further to the west after taking control of the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, the defense ministry said on Friday.
It said Russian forces had also destroyed a number of Western-provided Ukrainian weapons in the past week including seven British-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles, a US Patriot anti-aircraft guided missile and launch vehicle, and 42 HIMARS rockets fired by multiple launch systems.
Reuters could not independently verify battlefield reports.
The frontlines in the war, which started two years ago on Saturday, had not shifted substantially since late 2022 before the taking of Avdiivka, and Russia still controls just under a fifth of Ukrainian territory.
The capture of Avdiivka, following months of fighting with heavy casualties on both sides, was Russia’s first significant gain since taking the city of Bakhmut last May.
After taking Avdiivka, units of the “Center” group of Russian forces “continued advancing in a westerly direction,” the defense ministry statement said.
“In cooperation with aviation and artillery, they defeated accumulations of manpower and equipment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” in six nearby settlements, it said.


UK, EU border agency sign migration pact

Updated 23 February 2024
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UK, EU border agency sign migration pact

  • Friday’s agreement provides for the exchange of intelligence between Frontex and the UK Border Force
  • It also agrees to collaborate on the development of new technologies, such as the use of drones to protect borders, the Home Office added

LONDON: The United Kingdom on Friday signed an agreement with the EU border agency Frontex to jointly crack down on irregular immigration, the government in London said.
Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made stopping migrants from crossing the Channel on boats from France a priority before a general election due this year.
Friday’s agreement provides for the exchange of intelligence between Frontex and the UK Border Force to help disrupt people-smuggling gangs, Britain’s interior ministry said in a statement.
It also agrees to collaborate on the development of new technologies, such as the use of drones to protect borders, the Home Office added.
UK Border Force director general Phil Douglas and Frontex executive director Hans Leijtens signed the arrangement in London, witnessed by UK interior minister James Cleverly and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.
“Organized immigration crime and people smuggling are global challenges that require shared solutions and ambitions,” Cleverly said.
“Our landmark working arrangement between the UK and Frontex is another crucial step in tackling illegal migration, securing our borders and stopping the boats.”
The UK government says the number of migrants arriving on England’s south coast in rudimentary vessels fell by a third last year from a record high of 45,000 migrants in 2022.
The UK government called the deal “the latest step” in its “plan to tackle illegal migration and criminal gangs,” with the issue set to feature prominently in the general election campaign.


New Delhi calls on Moscow to release Indians on Russian front line

Updated 23 February 2024
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New Delhi calls on Moscow to release Indians on Russian front line

  • Testimonies of Indians in Russian army sent shockwaves across the media this week
  • Government urges Indian nationals to ‘stay away’ from Russia’s conflict

New Delhi: India's Ministry of External Affairs said on Friday it was in contact with Moscow regarding the release of Indian nationals, who according to media reports have been deployed in Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Testimonies of Indian men hired as “army security helpers” for Russian troops, their families and an agent involved in their employment sent shockwaves across the Indian media after The Hindu daily broke the news earlier this week.
A few Indians are known to have volunteered to join the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine created to counter Russia’s invasion since February 2022, but until The Hindu’s report, there was no indication of Indian nationals fighting on the Russian side.
Those who spoke to the newspaper said they had been given basic army training and expected to continue as kitchen helpers, but later were sent to the front instead.
Most of the men came from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir, and said they had been told they would not be sent to the battlefield.
The Indian government was “aware that a few Indian nationals have signed up for support jobs with the Russian army,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in a statement.
“The Indian Embassy has regularly taken up this matter with the relevant Russian authorities for their early discharge. We urge all Indian nationals to exercise due caution and stay away from this conflict.”
The issue has been flagged on social media by lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, who had been approached by some of the men’s relatives.
On Wednesday, Owaisi made a plea to Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in an X post, which has since gone viral.
“Kindly use your good offices to bring these men back home,” he said. “Their lives are at risk & their families are justifiably worried.”