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‘Rapidly closing window to act’ as climate change disrupts food systems

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Jeff Tyson

Climate change is mounting widespread disruption on the planet — with the most marginalized people and vulnerable places the hardest hit — while severe, irreversible changes are still to come if the world does not do enough to curb warming and spark resiliency. That’s according to the latest United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released on Monday.

Rachel Bezner Kerr

Professor, Department of Global Development

Rachel Bezner Kerr is an IPCC coordinating lead author for the report’s chapter on climate change impacts and adaptation of food systems. Kerr says climate change is impacting food systems all over the globe, but low-income countries, small island developing nations and the Arctic are among the most vulnerable.

Kerr says:

“Our report provides robust evidence that climate change — including increases in climate hazards such as flooding, drought, or cyclones — is already affecting food systems, and particularly food security in vulnerable regions. The world can prevent severe impacts on people and on nature, but there is a brief and rapidly closing window to act.

“No one is spared, but some groups and regions are much more affected by climate change. We see disparities — from the likelihood of dying from drought or a flood, to experiencing malnutrition. Low-income countries, small island developing states and the Arctic are among the most vulnerable regions. But there are also disparities in terms of groups of people, and that varies by place. Addressing inequities will be an important part of the solution for climate change action.

“We have a wide range of feasible and effective adaptation options that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and risks to the food system. For example, ecosystem-based adaptation and agroecology have multiple benefits, particularly when they’re done in an inclusive way. When the most vulnerable and marginalized groups within the food system are involved in the planning and implementation of these solutions, they reduce climate risk and provide health and biodiversity benefits.”

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