815 million people around the world went hungry last year.
This, according to the latest data from the United Nations, is the first increase in global hunger in more than 15 years.
Sweeping initiatives from nations all over the world slashed the undernourished population in half between 1990 and 2015.
Seeking to eradicate hunger by 2030, United Nations member countries created the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.
Yet a recent UN report shows hunger is increasing again.
With a changing climate comes a changing environment that displaces millions of people, creates food shortages, and threatens governments’ stability.
The hardest hit are the poor.
“Since 2010, state-based conflict has increased by 60 percent and armed conflict within countries has increased by 125 percent. More than half of the food-insecure people identified in the UN report (489 million out of 815 million) live in countries with ongoing violence. More than three-quarters of the world’s chronically malnourished children (122 million of 155 million) live in conflict-affected regions. At the same time, these regions are experiencing increasingly powerful storms, more frequent and persistent drought and more variable rainfall associated with global climate change.”
Especially impacted are farmers. Not only must they contend with dwindling resources they and their families relied on for generations; conflict can drive them off their land, destroy crops and livestock, prevent access to seed and fertilizer, make it harder to sell produce, restrict access to water, and interrupt planting and harvest cycles.
This is what happened in 2010 and 2011 that helped produce the Arab Spring.
A report from the Center for American Progress, the Center for Climate and Security, and the Stimson Center states:
“The Arab Spring would likely have come one way or another, but the context in which it did is not inconsequential. Global warming may not have caused the Arab Spring, but it may have made it come earlier.”
So what must the world’s leaders do?
Leah Samburg suggests:
“Rural populations need sustainable ways to support themselves in the face of crisis. This means investing in strategies to support rural livelihoods that are resilient, diverse and interconnected…Equally important is the ability of farmers to diversify their livelihood strategies beyond the farm. Income from off-farm employment can buffer farmers against crop failure or livestock loss, and is a key component of food security for many agricultural households. Training, education, and literacy programs allow rural people to access a greater range of income and information sources. This is especially true for women, who are often more vulnerable to food insecurity than men.”
But there isn’t much time.
A recent finding from researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego reports:
“The chance of ‘catastrophic’ climate change completely wiping out humanity by 2100 is now 1-in-20.”
Researchers suggest we take aggressive measures to curtail fossil fuel use and emissions of so-called “short-lived climate pollutants,” like soot, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) through extracting carbon dioxide from the air and sequester it before it can be emitted.
This is attainable.
Between 2000 and 2011, global CO2 emissions grew 2.9 percent per year, but slowed to almost zero by 2015 due to a decrease in CO2 emissions from the United States and China, the primary global polluters. Increases in renewable energy production, especially wind and solar power, have also helped curb emissions. Other studies have estimated by 2015 there was enough renewable energy capacity to accommodate almost 24 percent of demand for global electricity.
Last February, the Biological Extinction Conference held at the Vatican reported that unless we take immediate urgent action to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, one in five species on Earth faces extinction.
We have come together as a global community before to address hunger through developing technology to mass produce more food, purify water, and revolutionize farming practices.
But now that the issue is not just hunger but political unrest, our task is more challenging.
Only together in a unified body can governments make hunger history.
Image credit: wfp.org