Can Bananas Feed the World if Climate Change Worsens?

By Dan Klotz, November 15, 2012


Hurricane Sandy crashed into the northeast U.S. at the end of October, demonstrating the type of severe weather that climate change is expected to bring with increasing regularity. At the same time, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)—a Burness client—released two research papers looking at how feeding the world contributes to global warming, and how agriculture in particular needs to be revamped as climate change continues to worsen.

The total emissions footprint of global food production—which includes up to 17,000 megatons of carbon dioxide—represents one- fifth to one-third of the greenhouse gases released by people on the planet. This figure includes every aspect of agriculture, pre-production, processing and distribution.

Many countries could make big cost savings by cutting these emissions, Bruce Campbell, CCAFS program director, told Reuters. “There are good economic reasons to improve efficiency in agriculture, not just to cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

Food security is an equally pressing reason, however. The BBC noted in its coverage that farmers of maize, rice and wheat—the three most important sources of calories around the world—will all have problems maintaining their yields as the climate continues to change. Potato yields are also threatened; as the weather turns warmer in places, could bananas fill the calorie gap?

As Campbell told Nature, the CGIAR will use the paper to help set its research agenda for the next decade and identify which regions and crops should be priorities. This is also a topic of concern and needed action for negotiators attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha at the end of November.

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