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Food prices to increase as temperatures rise due to climate change…

By JESSICA BOXALL & MICHAEL HEAD

Climate change and specifically rising temperatures, may cause food prices to increase by 3.2 percent per year, according to a new study by German researchers. As climate change continues to worsen, this price inflation will mean that more and more people around the world don’t have a varied and healthy diet or enough food.

Climate change

The new analysis shows that global warming could cause food price inflation to increase by between 0.9 and 3.2 percentage points per year by 2035. The same warming will cause a smaller rise in overall inflation (between 0.3 and 1.2 percentage points), so a greater proportion of household income would need to be spent on food.

This effect will be felt worldwide by high and low-income countries alike, but nowhere more so than in the global south. As with various other consequences of climate change, Africa will be worst affected despite contributing little to its causes.

Our research on food security in Ghana, West Africa, gives a sense of what price inflation might mean in practice. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change describes West Africa as a ″hotspot″ of climate change, with models predicting extreme rising temperatures and reduced rainfall. With more than half of the population being directly dependent on rain-fed agriculture, Ghana is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

We recently conducted a study in Mion, a rural district in the north of the country. We spoke to almost 400 people, and every single one of them told us they had experienced some level of food insecurity in the previous 12 months. Some 99 percent said climate change was at least partly to blame.

Food insecurity

Additionally, 62 percent were moderately or severely food insecure, with 26 percent experiencing severe food insecurity (going without food for an entire day). These percentages are much worse than Ghana’s national averages (39 percent and 6 percent, respectively) but similar to those of some of the poorest countries in West Africa, such as Togo, Burkina Faso, and Benin.

We also carried out a similar study among refugees from neighboring Burkina Faso who fled across the border to the upper east region of Ghana. Again, 100 percent had experienced food insecurity. Mion isn’t suffering from a sudden famine, and nothing particularly unusual has happened to cause this food insecurity. This situation is considered a ″normal phenomenon″ due to the effects of climate change. Climate-related food inflation can be broken down into two interlinked problems.

Shifting seasons, pests, and diseases

The first is that the same climate change effects that are causing inflation are already making food harder to obtain. For instance, higher temperatures can cause long-established and predictable farming seasons to shift, which may hinder crop production.

Other consequences can include more pest and disease outbreaks that deplete livestock and food reserves and heat stress on already-poor roads, which makes it harder to access rural communities.

Food inflation

All of these factors push prices higher and reduce the purchasing power of affected households. The drivers of food inflation are already worsening food insecurity. The second part of this problem is the rise in inflation itself. A 3 percent annual price increase would mean households are less able to purchase what they need.

They would likely need to compromise on quality or even culturally important foods. This, in turn, makes people more vulnerable to disease and other health issues. Malnutrition is the leading cause of immunodeficiency globally.

In Ghana, we found that those who reported more knowledge of climate change were more likely to be food secure. This is despite the fact that few people have any formal education. This is evidence that affected populations are aware of the changing temperatures and unpredictability of the climate and are perhaps engaging in proactive mitigation practices.

Those without any schooling are more likely to engage in climate-sensitive occupations such as farming and would be more immediately exposed. Teaching people about climate change might provide some capacity to adapt to it and, therefore, increase food security.

Jessica Boxall

Alterations in the climate are a hunger-risk multiplier for populations with entrenched vulnerability. In light of this, 134 countries at COP28 signed a declaration to incorporate food systems into their climate action to ensure everyone has enough to eat in the face of climate change.

The researchers behind the new study suggest that reducing greenhouse gas emissions could limit any impacts on the global economy. We also suggest that diversifying economies would protect communities reliant on agriculture for their food and income.

Michael Head

Government intervention could also ensure financial protection and nutritional aid for those who are vulnerable to becoming trapped in the poverty cycle due to inflation and diminished accessibility to food.

Jessica Boxall is a Public Health & Nutrition Research Fellow at the University of Southampton.

Michael Head is a Senior Research Fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton.

This article was first published in The Conversation.

Source: agropages.com

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