NEWS | IPCC: Transform agriculture or climate change will inflict unprecedented hunger

Angola 2012 - photo credit CC: EC/ECHO Maria Olsen

(28 February 2022) Reacting to today's publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the impacts of climate change on nature and people, experts from IPES-Food are calling for fundamental reform of our food systems to avoid unprecedented hunger. 

Olivier De Schutter, Belgium, co-chair of IPES-Food, and UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, reacted:

“The science is clear - without a major turnaround in carbon emissions and the way we farm, we are likely to see mass crop failures and collapse of our fragile food system - with people in poverty hit first and hardest by a crisis they did not cause. Transforming our agriculture is now urgent - governments must act to support local communities’ efforts to feed themselves and encourage resilience through diversity, not uniformity.” 

The IPCC report, agreed by governments and scientists, finds that:

  • Increased heatwaves, droughts and floods from climate change are exposing millions of people to acute food insecurity, and this is set to worsen. By 2050, 8-80 million more people could face hunger - especially in sub-saharan Africa, South Asia, and Central America.
  • Smallholder farmers, pastoralists, Indigenous People and fishing communities face higher exposure to climate impacts; while marginalisation linked to gender, ethnicity and low income makes people more vulnerable. 
  • Climate change is undermining food production and impacting agricultural productivity growth, which has slowed 21%. 
  • Unsustainable agricultural expansion and unbalanced diets are increasing vulnerability to climate impacts and creating resource competition. 
  • 1.5°C of warming risks crop failure of maize in major food producing countries.
  • By 2100, 34% of current crop land could be unsuitable for food production.  

The IPCC calls for transformational changes that address social inequities in order to make food systems more resilient: 

  • Cultivar improvements, agroforestry, community-based adaptation, farm and landscape diversification, and urban agriculture. 
  • Diverse agroecological farming working with nature supports food security, livelihoods and biodiversity - and helps to buffer temperature extremes and sequester carbon.

Lim Li Ching, Malaysia, IPES-Food expert, said:

“Continuing with agribusiness as usual is enriching a small minority at the expense of the climate, biodiversity, and the world’s poorest people and farmers who did least to cause the problems. Governments have a key opportunity in upcoming biodiversity, desertification and climate negotiations to transform the way we produce food - away from intensive agriculture towards diversified agroecological farms which work with nature.”

Mamadou Goïta, Mali, IPES-Food expert, said:

“Small farmers in West Africa know what the climate crisis looks like - rising temperatures, droughts and depleted resources are already making it harder to feed their families and their communities. Smallholder farmers are critical for food security in many countries across the globe. They are doing everything they can to adapt - building resilience through diversified ecological production - but they need more support from governments and access to climate finance.”