IPCC climate report: Millions more risk hunger unless urgent action is taken to address climate threat to food security, says CARE

(Sunday 2 November, Copenhagen)

Transformational Climate Science 2014

Transformational Climate Science 2014

Image by University of Exeter

Speaking during government negotiations to finalise the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report in Copenhagen, CARE International’s Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator, Sven Harmeling said:

“Throughout the Fifth Assessment report, the IPCC repeatedly highlights that climate change impacts will increasingly erode food security. If global warming continues at current rates, millions more people in the developing world are at risk of going hungry as climate disruption worsens. This is yet another call to action from today’s leading climate scientists – act now or risk exposing people around the world to unprecedented risks, food-related and otherwise, for which nobody is prepared.”

CARE also wants to see a radical shift in energy production in favour of greener, renewable alternatives, an end to global business models that rely on dirty fossil fuels, and rapid investment in adaptation measures to protect the poorest and most vulnerable from the worst climate impacts. Sven Harmeling adds: “Climate change is an extreme injustice for the world’s poorest people and we have a moral imperative to act. Addressing the causes of climate change now will require a far less radical shift in our economies and societies than if we continue with a ‘business as usual’ approach.”

The IPCC’s Synthesis Report, published less than a month before 195 governments meet at the COP20 climate talks in Peru, summarises previous IPCC reports released over the last year

  • Climate change is happening everywhere and is already having widespread impacts on people and the planet. Many of the observed changes areunprecedented.
  • Ocean acidification is affecting marine organisms and climate change is affecting many fresh water and marine species.
  • Crop yields are often more negatively impacted by climate change than positively.
  • Climate change is expected to reduce food security and local temperature increases of more than 2 degrees could hurt production of staple foods such aswheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate climates.
  • Extreme temperature increases of 4 degrees – a level of warming which scientists say is possible without deep emissions cuts – would pose large risks to food security, globally and regionally.
  • Climate change will prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger. Overall, poverty reduction will become more difficult and disadvantaged people and communities are most at risk.

Around the world, CARE works with many poor communities who already face a daily struggle to provide enough food to feed their families and make a living. In Peru, for example, farmers in Carhuaz, Ancash province, report dramatic shifts. “The climate has changed a lot, before there weren’t so many insects and it wasn’t so hot”, says Nemezia Villón Ramirez, 64. “Now we’re seeing new pests like white mosquitoes and new illnesses which are destroying our plants. Every year it’s getting worse and farmers like me are the hardest hit.” 

In response, CARE is working to help people like Nemezia to build their resilience, for example, by reintroducing native potato species and quinoa which are better equipped to deal with lack of water and more extreme temperatures. CARE is carrying out similar community-based adaptation work in partnership with communities in other parts of Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

Sven Harmeling concludes: “The IPCC’s analyses also show that behaviour, lifestyle and culture have a considerable influence on energy use and associated emissions. Emissions can be substantially lowered through changes in consumption patterns, adoption of energy saving measures, dietary change and reduction in food waste.”

In the words of another Peruvian farmer, Niva Quiñones, 50, from Vilcacoto in Junín Province: “We’re doing everything we can here [in Peru] to adapt to climate change. We’re working so hard – if we can do it, people in rich countries must play their part too.”


  1. Stats and facts on climate change / food insecurity:
    1. The number of undernourished children under 5 is projected to rise from 5 to 52 million by 2050 due to climate change and other socioeconomic factors.
    2. By 2030 it is likely that adaptation responses, such as shifting to crops like cassava that are more resilient to temperature extremes, will not be enough to counter the effects of climate change on yields.
    3. As a net food importer, Bangladesh is projected to see a 15% rise in poverty by 2030 due to climate-related food price rises.
  2. In recent months alone, CARE has responded to food insecurity situations in Mali, Niger, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Sri Lanka and Kenya.
  3. Later this month, rich nations will meet in Berlin to consider financial pledges to the UNGreen Climate Fund. This is the next opportunity for developed country governments to turn the IPCC’s findings into concrete action.
  4. CARE is a leading humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty and providing lifesaving assistance in emergencies. In 90 countries around the world, CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. To find out more, visit www.care-international.org or www.careclimatechange.org
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