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November 21 is World Fisheries Day! According to a United Nations report, the world’s population is estimated to grow to 8.5 billion people by 2030, and reach 9.7 billion people by 2050. One of the biggest concerns regarding this rapid population expansion is sustainable food security. Aquaculture, the fastest growing food production sector, could be one such way to ensure this. As of 2016, more seafood is sourced through aquafarming than is being caught in the wild. Aquafarms are uniquely positioned to address the growing demand for seafood protein. However, as they continue to become more prevalent, the need to ensure that their sustainable development also increases. 

What is Aquafarming?

Aquafarming, also known as aquaculture, is the farming of aquatic organisms, such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and plants. Aquafarming can occur in both marine and freshwater environments. There are numerous aquafarming methods, but most follow the same basic production chain. Beginning at a hatchery, a combination of a laboratory and a farm, the fish are spawned, hatched and cared for until they are large enough to move to the next stage; the farm. The fish remain on the farm where they are fed by food produced at farm mills (another stage of the production chain) until they are ready to be harvested. Once they have reached harvest size, the fish are transported to processors where they are packaged and sent to food retailers. The exact details of the farm-to-table method vary based on species and location. Some farmers choose to farm their fish in net pens or cages in water. This method is sometimes referred to as ‘cage cultures’. These enclosed cages need to be carefully monitored to ensure that they do not harm the surrounding ecosystems. Marine shellfish can be ‘seeded’ on the seafloor, grown in bottom cages, or grown in floating cages. 

Farmers that are farming freshwater fish, or who don’t have access to oceans or estuaries, use ‘pond cultures’. Here the fish are kept in earthen ponds or tanks on land. Ensuring that the fish have continuously filtered and oxygenated water is especially important in these systems. Two ways to ensure this are recirculating systems and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems. In recirculating systems, the fish, shellfish and/or plant-life are farmed in ‘closed-loop’ systems that continuously filter the water and recycle waste. In an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture system, several species are farmed in one system, so that the waste or by-products of one species serve as food for another. 

The Benefits of Aquafarming 

According to another UN report, since 1961, the annual increase in fish consumption has been double the population growth of people. To meet this growing demand, the seafood industry will need to increase production by over 1.6 million tons each year. This demand can no longer be sustained by ocean fishing, as many fish stocks are on the brink of collapse from overfishing. Aquafarming is able to bridge the widening gap between seafood supply and demand. 

One of the major advantages of aquafarming over agriculture is that fish require far fewer calories than cows, pigs or sheep. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, fish are coldblooded, meaning they don’t expend energy maintaining their own body temperatures. Secondly, fish live in a buoyant environment, so they use less energy fighting gravity than terrestrial animals do. In order to produce one pound of body mass respectively, a cattle farmer will need approximately 6.8 pounds of feed, a chicken farmer will need approximately 1.7 pounds of feed, while a salmon farmer will need approximately 1.1 pounds of feed (this varies between different species). These ratios suggest that farming salmon is almost seven times more efficient than farming beef. 

While most commonly associated with fish farming, aquafarming also involves the farming of shellfish, molluscs and marine plants. A common belief in the sustainability community is that, in order to ensure global food security, people will need to learn to eat further down the food chain more regularly. Shellfish are considered to be one-step up from the bottom of the food chain. They are high in nutrients and omega-3s and low in fats, making them a healthy protein. Shellfish filter excess nutrients (such as nitrogen) which makes more oxygen available for other species. They also feed on phytoplankton (microscopic plankton) which allows more sunlight to reach the ocean floor, as the presence of phytoplankton can physically prevent sunlight from reaching the ocean floor; this in turn increases aquatic vegetation. 

Marine oyster farms have been found to hold more biodiversity than the adjacent wild water. As these farms can be grown in otherwise uninhabited areas, the increased biodiversity within the farms can positively impact the surrounding waters. Another food source that aquafarming can produce is kelp, a nutritious vegetable that is particularly popular in Chinese and Japanese cuisines. The kelp industry in East Asia alone is a USD$5billion industry. Certain species of kelp can grow at incredibly fast rates, some as much as 12cm a day. Kelp farms can be successfully sustained without freshwater, arable land, pesticides or fertilisers. This, coupled with their fast growth rates, make kelp farms more efficient and environmentally friendly than many traditionally grown terrestrial vegetables.  

Aquafarming is particularly important in developing countries, where it both directly and indirectly affects food security. It directly affects food security through the increase of food availability and accessibility, producing a relatively healthy and affordable protein source. Fish is important for developing countries because it contains many of the vitamins and minerals that combat some of the most prevalent and severe nutritional deficiencies. Fish have high fertility rates and low feed conversion ratios, making it a more biologically efficient food source than terrestrial livestock. 

The UN estimates that over 100 million people rely on aquafarming for their living; with the increase in aquafarming in developing countries, more people will have access to job opportunities. Aquafarming acts as a driver for economic development, and through this allows more people indirect food security, as their ability to access food is no longer hindered by economic hardship.

The negative consequences of modern agriculture have been well documented. The habitat destruction, water pollution and the food safety scares due to overcrowding and disease have cast a dark shadow over industrialised farmers. In order to sustain humanity’s growing protein consumption, several studies have suggested that a dietary shift towards sustainable seafood protein could be a solution. It is predicted that seafood consumption will increase by 27% by 2030, and that the aquafarming sector will grow by 62% in the same period. This immense growth offers significant opportunities for many people, but also highlights the need to ensure that the growth of the sector is handled in an environmentally sustainable manner.  

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Downsides of Aquafarming 

During the aquafarming boom of the 1980s, large areas of tropical mangroves were bulldozed to create space for shrimp farms. Mangroves are of critical importance to the health of coastal ecosystems as they protect shorelines from erosion, serve as nursery areas for many different species of fish and invertebrates and support a number of threatened and endangered species. While the destruction of mangroves for shrimp farms has reduced since the 1980s, it is important to ensure that the predicted expansion of the aquafarming industry does not follow in the habitat-destroying footsteps of the agricultural industry. 

A second concern regarding the expansion of aquafarming is pollution. Aquafarming pollution mostly involves nitrogen, phosphorus and dead fish. When a large number of individuals are enclosed in a confined space, their waste matter becomes concentrated. Aquafarming pollution is currently a widespread hazard in Asia, as 90% of farmed fish are farmed there. One way to mitigate the problem of concentrated waste matter is to use an integrated multi-trophic system, recycling one species waste matter as food for another. Another way is to use a recirculatory system, where the waste matter is filtered out and fresh water pumped back in. However, recirculatory systems are expensive to run, often requiring massive water treatment systems and immense amounts of electricity to keep the pumps running. This is costly both for the farmer and the environment, as land will need to be claimed for the water treatment facility and most electricity is generated from fossil fuels. Better technology needs to be developed in order to make recirculatory systems more sustainable, but as they are not one of the most popular forms of aquafarming, it is hard to foresee when/if this technology will be developed. 

As has been seen in agriculture, enclosing large numbers of individuals in a small space creates a breeding ground for bacteria and diseases. In an attempt to combat this, some Asian farmers have been using antibiotics and pesticides. Many of these antibiotics and pesticides  are banned in the US, Europe and Japan, as they are known or suspected carcinogens. It is estimated that the US, which imports 90% of its seafood, only inspects about 2% of the imports. The use of antibiotics and pesticides not only threatens the health of those that eat the fish, but can also increase the prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria (AMR). In a study published in the scientific journal, Nature, scientists found that aquafarms have high levels of AMR, which causes over 35 000 deaths each year in the US alone. It is predicted that these numbers are much higher in developing countries, and that they will continue to increase with socio-economic development. Antimicrobials are often administered to fish through their feed. However, it is estimated that around 80% of these antimicrobials are dispersed into the surrounding environments where they can remain active for months. These concentrations of antimicrobials put selective pressure on bacterial communities, which causes the development of AMR. The study also found that “higher AMR levels of aquaculture-related bacteria were correlated with warmer temperatures”. As ocean temperatures continue to rise as a result of global warming and the aquafarming industry continues to grow, the need for immediate, co-ordinated international intervention to limit the use of antimicrobial drugs in aquafarming is great. 

A point of conflicting views is the effect of aquafarming on greenhouse gas emissions. According to one study, aquaculture has a much lower GHG emissions intensity than ruminant meat, and a similar emissions intensity to pork. However, the study goes on to note that the moderate emissions intensity does not justify complacency, especially as post-farm emissions were not included in the calculations. Another study found that the conversion of rice paddies into aquafarms in China was resulting in a “globally significant [rise] in CH4 emissions.”  Quantifying the effect of aquafarms on GHGs is an intricate process, but given the rapid expansion of aquafarming, it is an area that needs further investigation. 

Looking to the Future

In 2015, the Member States of the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aim of the agenda is “to shift the world to a sustainable and resilient path that leaves no one behind.” Food and agriculture play a key role in achieving all of the 17 SDGs. Many of them are relevant to fisheries and aquafarming, no more so than SDG 14, which is to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” In order to end poverty by 2030 while mitigating degradation, food production needs to be increased in a way that ensures that practices are sustainable and non-detrimental to the environment. This needs to be the focus of the aquafarming industry moving forward. 

While the expansion of aquafarming is still in its infancy, the concept of using polycultures dates back hundreds of years. Over 1 000 years ago, Chinese farmers developed an integrated multi-trophic system that utilised manure from ducks and pigs to fertilise pond algae. The algae was grazed on by young carp in the pond. When the carp were bigger, they were caught and placed in flooded rice paddies. There they ate insects and weeds, and fertilised the rice with their excrement. Finally, when the carp had grown to a suitable size, they were eaten by the farmers. This system is still used in over seven million acres of rice paddies in China, and perhaps holds an important lesson for the future of aquafarming. In the haste to expand and capitalise on the ever-growing demand for seafood, it is important to take time to understand how the natural world maintains balance between different species, and to ensure that aquafarming policies are aligned with and respect this balance.  

Featured image by: Flickr

In recent weeks, Sudan has experienced flooding and landslides triggered by torrential downpours that have not only affected nearly 830 000 people and destroyed thousands of homes, but also damaged large tracts of farmland just before harvest. The country’s food security is mainly determined by rainfall and an observation of Sudan’s ecological zones, including deserts, flood regions and mountain vegetation, indicates that the majority of its land is extremely vulnerable to changes in temperature. How will Sudan fare under the advancing climate crisis?

In early September, the country declared a three-month state of emergency over the floods, which began in mid-July and mark the worst flooding in the country in 30 years, with authorities recording the highest water levels on the Blue Nile since records began over 100 years ago. At least 138 people have died. Worst-hit states are North Darfur, Khartoum, Blue Nile, West Darfur and Sennar, and large areas of farmland in these states are under water. This could compromise food security, especially in Khartoum, where already over 1.4 million people are “severely food insecure.”

While heavy rains usually fall in Sudan from June to October every year, flooding is becoming increasingly severe, placing the already-vulnerable country at further risk from the advancing climate crisis. While the country experiences prolonged periods of drought, flooding events kill off crops, exacerbating food insecurity. The country has experienced many devastating floods in the past, which occur from torrential rain overflowing the River Nile and its tributaries and when there is heavy localised rain during the rainy summer season

Mean annual temperature lies between 26 to 32 degrees Celsius but in some places, it can reach up to 47 degrees, causing heat stress and other heat-related diseases. Rainfall is erratic and varies significantly between the north and south of the country; this unreliability increases the vulnerability of the rain-fed agricultural system. Adding to this, annual rainfall has been declining in the last 60 years and the variability of rainfall is contributing to drought episodes. 

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How Will Sudan Be Affected by the Climate Crisis?

During drought events, conflicts can occur. Food shortages caused by droughts lead to famine, followed by displacement of residents which leads to misuse of the remaining natural resources. 

The average temperature is expected to rise significantly in the years to come. By 2060, projected temperature ranges from 1.5 to 3.1 degrees during August and between 1.1 and 2.1 degrees during January. Average rainfall will also decrease by about 6mm per month (5%) during the rainy season. 

Agro-climate zones will shift southwards, rendering areas in the north unsuitable for agriculture. For example, in Kordofan Region, millet production is predicted to decrease between 15% and 62%, sorghum between 29% and 71% and gum Arabic between 25% to 30% during 2030 to 2060. Increasing temperatures will intensify desertification in Kordofan Region and beyond; arable land will decrease which will affect food security. 

Regarding water, availability may become the most critical issue in the country. Models show that soil moisture will decline under future climate conditions. Already now, at least 32% of the country do not have access to clean water, a proportion which will likely increase in the years to come. 

Health-wise, communities in Sudan will be increasingly exposed to malaria due to increasing temperatures, since the Plasmodium parasite that causes the disease reproduces faster inside vector mosquitoes when it’s warmer, increasing the infection of likelihood when the mosquito bites someone. This will cause an already-stressed healthcare system to become overburdened. 

What Can Be Done?

Plans to develop the agricultural sector have had limited success due to the low priority given to agriculture in allocation of resources and lack of political stability, despite the fact that the agricultural sector will likely be most affected in the future. Further, there are two systems of land ownership in Sudan- land ownership under customary law and under statutory law, complicating agricultural reform efforts. 

There are 19 laws dealing with land use planning, 10 with soil conservation, four with forestry, nine with wildlife and protected areas, 16 with water resources, five with marine resources and coastal management, five with livestock,  four with energy and mining and ten with environmental health. To oversee these overlapping and conflicting laws, the Environmental Protection Act of 2001 was established as an “umbrella legislation,” however Sudan planning is led by politicians and a few professionals and is often poorly implemented. The World Resources Institute (WRI) suggests that adaptation policies should be included in the national planning process, with particular emphasis placed on building the capacities of civil society organisations. 

However, a limited effort has been made to create awareness of climate risks to food security. Government is subject to frequent changes due to political instability, which has resulted in limited incorporation of multilateral environmental agreements, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

The Sudan National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) identified several policy issues during its preparatory phase which can be used to inform future policies, which includes:

We have long known that the effects of the climate crisis will hit poorer countries the hardest, Sudan being one of them. It is thus essential that the country not only develops its own mitigation and adaptation strategies, but that it gets help from the more developed world- either in the form of technology and financial assistance or otherwise- to implement and maintain these strategies.

Featured image by: Flickr

With the global population forecast to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, the question of developing effective means of matching the food supply with demand has been on the agenda prior to the Green Revolution. The inability of conventional agriculture to achieve the necessary 70-100% increase in productivity to feed the world by 2050 is worrisome. Rising to the challenge, scientists and agricultural giants have turned their attention to soil- the most complex ecosystem on earth- and its humble microbes to boost crop yields. 

There are around 50 billion microbes in a spoonful of soil. The soil microbiome, consisting largely of bacteria and fungi, greatly influences plants by forming associations with their roots. The zone of soil which fosters interactions between microorganisms and plant roots is known as  the rhizosphere. Here, symbiotic relationships, crucial to the health of crops, are formed.

In 1888 Martinus Beijerinck isolated a type of symbiotic bacteria called rhizobium, which has been implemented into farming practices to boost crop yields as a natural nitrogen fertiliser ever since. Rhizobium colonises roots of legumes, forming characteristic nodules, and turns nitrogen from the air into a ‘bioavailable’ (easy for plants to absorb) form in the ground – a process known as nitrogen fixation. 

Microbes in the soil help to boost crop yields in a variety of ways. They are critical to nutrient cycling, particularly of phosphate, which is essential to crops and cannot be manufactured. There are bacteria which produce antibiotics that defend plants from harmful bacteria and some directly stimulate growth through phytohormones. Others induce epigenetic changes, meaning that they alter the physiology of a plant to the point of modifying its gene expression, making plants more productive and resilient to changes. 

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Microbes also provide plenty of indirect support. For example, they improve water retention by aggregating into sticky colonies called biofilms, which coat soil particles and trap the moisture within while simultaneously creating a fluffy, optimally-structured soil with tiny air pockets.  

Even more fascinating are fungi, notably a specific type called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). AMF permeate the roots and the soil with long finger-like projections called hyphae, which act as extensions of the host’s roots, bringing in nutrients. Additionally, through this network of hyphae, collectively called mycelium, fungi protect crops against pathogens, reduce the impact of pollutants and offer greater resistance to environmental changes such as water stress, soil temperature, pH and more. In productive soil, the mycorrhizal mycelium is very developed and serves as a means of sophisticated communication and signalling between plants, like informing about any deficiencies in an area or sending warning signs of pest attacks. It can even increase plants’ resistance to pests. More than 90% of plants form some connections with AMF.  Inconspicuous AMF, themselves, can grow to enormous lengths. The largest organism on Earth is Armillaria ostoyae, a fungus spread over nearly 2 400 acres across the Malheur National Forest, US. 

As mentioned, such relationships of the rhizosphere are symbiotic, or based on reciprocity, meaning plants serve friendly microbes just as much in return. As Ben Brown, a researcher from Berkeley’s Lab working on the AR1K Smart Farm project, puts it, ‘they do an exceptional job of farming their microbiomes’, referencing how plants exude compounds to kill off harmful bacteria and provide carbohydrates for their allies to feed on. It is not far-fetched to compare the rhizosphere microbiome, in its role and importance, to that of a human gut microbiome. In fact, scientists involved in the project dubbed their microbial mixtures ‘soil probiotic’. 

In the early 1950s, Norman Borlaug created a high-yielding strain of wheat by genetically modifying the plant. This invention spurred experts and farmers to begin the Green Revolution, a large-scale effort to increase food production and prevent devastating famines in the 20th century. The use of new genetically modified (GM) crop varieties, requiring more nutrient and irrigation input, became the catalyst for the worldwide spread of intensive conventional agriculture. This meant extensive use of chemical fertilisers, a significant increase in water demand and the growth of monoculture cultivation. 

In Asia, the Green Revolution increased yields from 310 million in 1970 to 650 million tons by 1995. Despite a 60% growth in population over the same time period, wheat and rice became cheaper, caloric availability per person increased nearly 30%, and only an additional 4% of farmland was used. Because of these remarkable results, the predicted famine was prevented and in 1970, Dr. Borlaug was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. 

The momentary success of the Green Revolution is indisputable, but its legacy experienced today- land degradation, leaching and eutrophication, greenhouse gas emissions, and genetic diversity loss- impugn the idea of agricultural intensification as a viable solution.  

One of the problems with chemical fertilisers is that it replaces the soil microbes. When plants are simply given what they need, there is no incentive for them to form or maintain relationships with soil life, and so the network of connections disintegrates. Moreover, the cropping practices alone, for example tillage, impact the rhizosphere interactions. In the absence of microbes, crops rely solely on human imitation of their services, as it is done in industrial farming, which soon ceases to be economically or environmentally viable. Therefore, some of the world’s agricultural giants, like Monsanto and Novozymes, are investing in large-scale analyses of soil samples and testing out different mixtures of microbes to be used as seed coatings or soil amendments. As the aforementioned rhizobium, every microbe in the soil has a specific function. Hence scientists are trying out different combinations of microbes to find the optimum blend. In an interview for the Scientific American, these scientists expressed no intention of using GM organisms, but ones derived straight from soil. As a collective effort, 500 000 plots of US farmland were sown with seeds coated in 2 000 different mixtures of microbes in field trials unprecedented in scope. Increased crop yields were successfully obtained, and the companies predict that 50% of US farmland will be using some form of soil microbial crop aid by 2025. 

Healthy soils support healthy crops and produce high levels of soil organic matter (SOM) which stores carbon. Intensive industrial farming practices strip the land off of this organic matter. The buildup of SOM is very important, particularly at the time of global climate crisis, because it prevents carbon from being released into the atmosphere by keeping it in the soil instead. This and other forms of ‘carbon farming’, a recent article states, should be incentivised to decelerate global warming.

In summary, soil microbes not only boost crop yields but offer more resilience to the impacts of climate change. Hence, in answering the question of the future of posterity, the science points down to the soil with emphasis on ecological intensification. 

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement created by the United Nations (UN) that equitably shares the benefits of genetically modified organisms. The Nagoya Protocol is related to biodiversity protection and is one of two protocols that allow ambitious biodiversity goals to be efficiently achieved.

Nagoya Protocol Summary

The Nagoya Protocol is an international agreement that acts as a legally binding instrument to set regulations on access and benefit sharing (ABS) in biological diversity. As a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), it provides a legal framework to effectively implement CBD’s aim of “fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.” The Nagoya Protocol specifically focuses on building greater legal certainty and transparency for those who provide and use genetic resources. The protocol was adopted in October 2010 and entered into force in October 2014, aiming to create an equitable distribution of the benefits of utilising genetic resources.

How Many Parties are There in the Nagoya Protocol?

The countries part of the Nagoya Protocol can be seen below. There are currently 131 ratified parties (132 ratifications) of the Nagoya Protocol. Parties to the protocol include Afghanistan, Botswana, China, South Africa and the UK. The countries in dark green represent those that were among the first to ratify it, while the later dates of ratification are shown in darkening shades of red. According to the CBD Convention on Biological Diversity ‘ratification’ signifies ‘the consent of a State to be bound by a treaty’.

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nagoya protocol biodiversity

Nagoya Protocol Ratification Dates

However, in order to fully understand the extent of the work that has been created by the United Nations, the existing framework, that most are not aware of, must be discussed. 

Convention on Biological Diversity and the Strategic Plan for 2011-2020

The Nagoya Protocol is headed up by the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international legal instrument, facing penalties from the UN if the rules of compliance are broken. The agreement expects to cover “all possible domains that are directly or indirectly related to biodiversity and its role in development.” The convention acts as a multilateral treaty that has three aims: 

In order to achieve these broad aims, the Convention created the Strategic Plan for the years 2011-2020. The plan includes a shared vision among parties and national targets to be implemented as policy instruments for greater effectiveness. 

This vision says, “By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.”

The vision itself contains a large focus on reintroducing an affinity or connection to nature that has been lost. In a study conducted by Kals, Schumacher and Montada, an emotional connection towards nature has an impact on behaviour. One of the study’s conclusions was that affinity is a powerful indicator of nature-protective behaviour, which the Strategic Plan vision aims to improve. 

In order to achieve these ambitious goals, the Convention on Biological Diversity created two protocols that enabled the Convention to administrate the increase in biodiversity internationally in a formal agreement. 

Framework and Scope of the Nagoya Protocol

The first is the Nagoya Protocol. Entering into force in 2014, the Nagoya Protocol allows a transparent legal structure to ensure that the benefits from using genetic resources are shared. Its importance stretches beyond sharing modified products but allows the benefits of resources to be distributed with confidence and transparency. The protocol promotes conditions that encourage research on the sustainable use of genetic products. These resources may improve future food security or agricultural efficiency.

Perhaps most importantly, the protocol allows researchers to pool knowledge and allow technological transfer. This alone is invaluable, in a world where maximising limited resources is quickly becoming the name of the game. 

Any sharing of biological resources is monitored by researchers who overlook the protocol ensuring that, for example, if a new plant was introduced into a new country, it would not take over and destroy the native plants. The protocol would ensure that the potential impact would be researched before. 

Further, if any profits are made by, for example, selling a traditional medicine, it will be split between those who distributed the medicine and those indigenous people who created it. 

The protocol may prove influential in ensuring progress towards at least the seventh and eighth Millennium Development Goals: improving environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development. 

Its obligations include taking measures to ensure that genetic resources utilised within jurisdictions are accessed with prior consent, cooperation in cases of alleged violation of another party’s requirements and taking measures to monitor the utilisation of genetic resources after they leave a country including by designating effective checkpoints at any stage of the value-chain: research, development, innovation, pre-commercialisation or commercialisation

Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol

The second protocol created from the Strategic Plans for the years 2011-2020 is the Cartagena Protocol, which focuses on biosafety, including the safe handling and use of ‘living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health’.

The CBD defines a modified organism as one which contains a “novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology,” surveying the transboundary movement of genetically modified products.

The scale of the effort in achieving these Millennium Development Goals is incredibly large, with each step vital to combat each goal. For the Millennium Development Goals to be remotely achievable, both the Nagoya Protocol and the Aichi Biodiversity targets should be prioritised.

Effectiveness of the Nagoya Protocol

The effectiveness of the Nagoya Protocol was showcased with the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group working on the Sustainable use of Biodiversity in Papua New Guinea Project. The task completed scientific research which focused on the biological chemical and medicinal properties of the biodiversity within Papua New Guinea. The research resulted in over 500 species of herbarium species being deposited in local herbariums. Additional projects using these species led to the creation of a new antivenom by the Australian Venom Research Unit. The commercialisation of this product meant that the benefits were shared with all parties, including the people who designed the traditional medicine. 

Thus, the Nagoya Protocol holds undeniable importance in attempting to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, ensuring that the benefits of genetically modified products are distributed equitably between all parties.

Supermarket shelves around the world were emptied as people panic bought due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Singapore, this brought attention to the republic’s overreliance on food imports and its subsequent food security. Fortuitously, Singapore made plans in 2019 to reduce its dependence on food imports with its “30 by 30” vision, whereby 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs will be produced locally by 2030, up from less than 10% today. 

Singapore currently imports over 90% of its food supply, making it especially sensitive to any changes in the global agricultural landscape. Major importers include Malaysia, Brazil and Australia. When Malaysia announced its lockdown, many Singaporeans scrambled to supermarkets, fearing that imported food from Malaysia would suddenly be cut off. Even before COVID-19, the climate crisis already posed a threat to global food supply, negatively affecting crop yields. Additionally, the amount of fertile land in the world has fallen by 33% in 40 years, yet demand for food is expected to increase as the global population continues to rise and the affluence of developing countries grows. Hence, in times of crises, having a robust local food supply to fall back on can act as a buffer to cushion Singapore from any negative food supply shocks.

Nearly tripling local food production in 10 years seems like a daunting task, but Singapore has a robust plan to achieve this “30 by 30” vision. 

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The heightened production will be mainly focused on eggs, leafy vegetables, fruits and fish. To increase food production and achieve the “30 by 30” plan, Singapore needs to convert more spaces for urban farming. Land is a precious resource in Singapore, with 5.6 million people in an area of 721.5 km², even smaller than New York City. As of 2016, agriculture occupied 0.93% of Singapore’s land area. By creatively tapping into underused and integrated spaces, Singapore hopes to produce more in less space. Recent plans have revealed that urban farms will be developed on carpark rooftops and integrated into multi-purpose sites, one of which was initially an old school campus. Singapore Food Agency has also been collaborating with other agencies to open up more of Singapore’s southern waters for fish farms, expanding on the one that is currently in operation. 

Improving technologies to increase production efficiency is also key to ramp up food production. In the field of agri-tech, heavy research and development efforts are ongoing. At the micro level, researchers are working to discover high yield and resilient genetic species. By detecting the chemicals plants emit, researchers aim to detect their precise optimal growing conditions. At the macro level, knowing these exact conditions can help to engineer resource-efficient and productive farming systems that will raise yields as well. Many considerations will also be taken to ensure food safety, by creating new models and systems to detect and predict any safety hazards in these new foods. 

Having the infrastructure and technology in place and creating an economic environment that supports enterprises will be the next step in promoting growth in the agri-food sector. A pool of experts that are well-versed in the urban farming and food production industry can help form suitable industry regulations that will help to reduce compliance costs and ensure a high standard of food safety. Grants for high-efficiency farms such as the Agriculture Productivity Fund (AFP)’s Productivity Enhancement (PE) scheme will encourage farms to improve and upgrade their technology, while reducing business costs. To train a future network of knowledgeable and experienced professionals, Singapore has set up certified courses in urban agricultural technology and aquaculture in tertiary education institutions, as well as a SkillsFuture Programme, a subsidised skills upgrading programme for Singaporeans. 

Encouraging Singaporeans to Buy Local Produce

Most importantly, the work to increase local supply must also be met by an increase in consumer demand. The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) aims to raise Singaporean’s demand for local food by raising awareness about the existence and benefits of buying homegrown food. Holding a ‘SG Farmers’ Market’ several times a year that features local farms and putting a logo on produce that marks it as homegrown are part of SFA’s plans to shine a spotlight and raise awareness of local produce.

In light of the pandemic, the government has introduced a SGD$30 million (USD$22 million) grant for local producers who can utilise high-efficiency farming systems and quickly raise their output. Producers may apply and submit their project proposals for this grant, named the 30×30 Express grant, which will help approved applicants cover up to 85% of the project costs. This is on top of the existing SGD$144 million (USD$118 million) in the Singapore Food Story R&D Program, that supports research in the agri-food sector.

Moving forward, one key way Singaporeans can help to achieve the “30 by 30” target is to support and buy from local producers, as said by Minister Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources in Singapore. Singaporeans can also look forward to hearing more about new innovative developments as a result of the 30×30 Express grant, or a new urban farm sprouting up in their neighbourhood. 

The locust swarms which continue to plague East Africa show how climate change can aggravate human conflict, which in turn makes formulating a response to natural disasters even harder.  

East Africa continues to face an unparalleled threat to its food and human security from the continued breeding cycles of desert locusts. New swarms will begin to form in June and July, spreading from Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia across the Horn of Africa and over to the Arabian Peninsula, India, Pakistan and Turkey. 

The East Africa Locust Plague

The East African locust swarms expose the interactive relationship between the climate crisis and armed conflicts. The exceptionally large locust numbers are a product of extreme climatic conditions with cyclones on the Arabian Peninsula in 2018 and huge rainfalls in East Africa in 2019 providing the ideal breeding grounds – damp soil and growing vegetation – for desert locusts. One swarm in Kenya covered 2,400km2 – three times the size of New York City – while typical swarms cover around 100km2. These weather events are likely a result of temperature fluctuations in the Indian Ocean. 

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With climate change the primary cause of the locust swarms, human conflict acts as an exacerbating factor. A key method of controlling the growth of locust populations is spraying them with pesticide before they have hatched, a process which was severely hindered by conflict in Yemen and Somalia. The sprays themselves could also be detrimental to local ecosystems. One Kenyan expert suggests that the mass use of pesticides may ‘kill “useful” insects, such as bees and beetles’. 

Yemen is an important area for the desert locust, with breeding grounds near the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Prior to the outbreak of civil war in 2015, Yemen had a well-developed infrastructure for dealing with locusts. But the conflict has severely damaged this infrastructure and made it difficult to administer locust control measures. Key equipment like four-wheel drive vehicles have been destroyed or stolen – making monitoring very difficult – and funding for spraying programmes has been decimated. In addition, large portions of the country are controlled not by the government but by Houthi rebels. This makes a coordinated response to locust breeding zones impossible.

From Yemen, the locusts quickly spread to Somalia. Significant areas for locust breeding in the country are not controlled by the Somali government. The semi-autonomous region of Puntland is administered by Al-Shabaab, an armed group who oppose the Somali government. Aid groups and the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation have had to negotiate access to Al-Shabaab controlled areas to conduct locust spraying operations, reducing the speed and effectiveness of these operations. 

Impacts of Locust Swarms

The locust swarms are likely to have a multiplier effect on food insecurity and conflict conditions in East Africa. The region has been severely affected by extreme climatic shifts, of which the locusts are the latest manifestation. Huge floods have already damaged the March to May crop season and the locusts will likely hinder the beginning of harvesting in July and August. In 2019, the food security of over 27 million people in East Africa was considered to be in ‘crisis’. Considering that a small swarm of locusts can eat the equivalent of 35 000 people in one day, the food insecurity situation is likely to deteriorate further. 

The devastation of pasture lands used to grow crops and provide grazing land for animals could spark conflicts between farming and pastoralist groups. Tensions between Pokot, Turkana and Samburu communities over the availability of grazing land in Kenya have escalated into armed conflict in recent years, a trend driven by severe droughts and the subsequent decline in pasture land. Locust swarms will aggravate this scarcity – over 70 000 acres of vegetation have already been demolished by locusts in Samburu East in the Rift Valley, increasing competition for land and heightening the conflict risk. 

The locust plagues highlight how climate change can increase the risk of conflict and how war can destroy the governance mechanisms and societal resilience that enables communities to cope with natural disasters and climate stress.

Featured image by: Jonathan Alpeyrie

The UN secretary-general António Guterres has released a policy brief called, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition,” in which he discusses the need to safeguard everyone’s access to food and sufficient nutrition, calling our current food systems ‘broken’. He also urges the world to reshape its current food systems to be more resilient and sustainable to combat the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the climate crisis. 

The brief calls on governments to prioritise actions that will protect people during and beyond the pandemic. Guterres points out that millions were already struggling with hunger and malnutrition before the pandemic; 144 million children around the world under the age of five are stunted mainly due to malnutrition, which is likely to get worse as the world deals with the pandemic. While there is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone, more than 820 million people still do not get enough to eat, numbers which will likely increase, he adds. 

He says, “Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food security emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of adults and children.”

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Even in countries with an abundance of food, COVID-19 risks disrupting food supply chains. He says, “Our food systems are failing, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making things worse.”

Earlier in June, the UN predicted that at least 49 million people may fall into extreme poverty due to the pandemic, expanding the number of those that are food or nutrition insecure. For every percentage point drop in global GDP, an additional 700 000 children will experience stunted growth. The World Bank predicts that the global economy will shrink by 5.2% in 2020.

The policy brief makes three recommendations, including governments directing resources to areas most at risk of food insecurity, putting social protection systems in place to ensure that children, breastfeeding and pregnant women and other vulnerable groups have access to nutritious food and finally, investing in more sustainable and efficient food systems. 

Essential Food Services

Countries should designate food and nutrition as essential, while also implementing protections for those who work in the sector to ensure that food systems can continue to function. 

He adds that relief packages should also benefit the most vulnerable members of society, including small-scale farmers and rural businesses. 

Guterres says, “It means preserving critical humanitarian food, livelihood and nutrition assistance to vulnerable groups and positioning food in food-crisis countries to reinforce and scale up social protection systems.”

Reshaping Food Systems

The outbreak of the pandemic came at a time when food security and food systems were already under pressure, with factors such as conflict, natural disasters, the climate crisis and plagues of pests undermining food security. In parts of Africa and Asia, people are facing what the brief calls a ‘triple menace’, as heavy rain hinders efforts to control the swarms of locusts in the time of the pandemic. 

Guterres urges countries to build food systems which address the needs of both producers and workers, and to eradicate hunger by ensuring more equitable access to nutritious food. 

The pandemic underscores the need to transform the world’s food systems. After all, these systems contribute a significant portion to global greenhouse gas emissions- up to a third– and substantial biodiversity loss. Further, livestock contributes 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, of which 44% is methane. Our food systems contribute to, among other things, the mass extinction of species, ecocide, soil loss, land degradation, water and air pollution and the spread of zoonotic diseases (as seen with COVID-19).

Humanity must rethink the way we produce, process, market and consume our food and dispose of waste to create more inclusive, sustainable and resilient food systems post COVID-19. 

To create food systems that are efficient, sustainable and resilient, careful management of land, soil and water is needed; the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) claims that when forest land is converted to crops, soil carbon decreases by 42%, while conversion of pastures leads to a 59% reduction. Post-harvest food loss must be tackled through low-cost handling and storage technologies as well as packaging.

As for resilience to the climate crisis, this can be achieved through water and energy-saving irrigation, conservation agriculture, as well as controlled environment farming, livestock grazing management, energy-efficient cold storage, biogas production and renewable energy. 

A common misconception about the climate crisis is that warmer temperatures result in plants growing larger and for longer periods. While rising temperatures are causing the shifting of seasons, prompting plants to sprout and turn green sooner than usual, the reality is that the climate crisis is causing plants to become less nutritious, signalling a nutrient collapse and threatening food security. 

Impact of Climate Change on Food Security

The climate crisis poses a significant threat to agriculture as changes in temperature and precipitation affect crop yield and shift agricultural zones. The impact of rising CO2 levels on the quantity of crops grown has been carefully researched, but the outcome of the climate crisis on crop quality is harder to predict and remains less studied.  

In 1998, Irakli Loladze, then pursuing a mathematics PhD at Arizona State University, started to explore the relationship between increasing CO2 levels and plant nutrition. His interest was piqued when colleagues in the biology department demonstrated that algae grows faster when exposed to more light, but the zooplankton that feed on that algae become malnourished.  

Loladze further investigated the problem and discovered that although increased light produces more algae, the algae has fewer nutrients, resulting in the zooplankton’s malnourishment. “It was kind of a watershed moment for me when I started thinking about human nutrition,” he said

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Expanding his research to human nutrition inspired Loladze to consider the relationship between CO2 and nutrient density. Studies have found that some agricultural crop yields are increased when exposed to higher rates of CO2, which is essential for plant growth. But similar to the algae, faster agricultural growth rates may be resulting in fewer nutrients. 

“Every leaf and every grass blade on earth makes more and more sugars as CO2 levels keep rising,” Loladze said. “We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history- an injection that dilutes other nutrients in our food supply,” he adds.

The Department of Environmental Health at Harvard conducted a meta-analysis to investigate the nutritional density of crops grown in CO2 levels that the world is expected to experience by 2050 (550ppm). The research team found that this significantly reduced crops’ zinc content; by 9.1% for wheat, 13.6% for barley and 3.1% for rice. The planet is currently experiencing CO2 levels of 415 ppm

17% of the global population already suffers from zinc deficiency and these findings suggest that crops’ changing nutritional value will threaten a further 138 million people in the coming decades. This does not account for population growth.

Zinc deficiency is associated with compromised immune function resulting in over 100 000 deaths among children under the age of five annually, according to the team from Harvard. Zinc deficiencies have also been linked to depression and a number of other mental disorders that have been on the rise for the past two decades. 

The density of other nutrients in plant-based food sources is also expected to decline. A study by the US Departure of Agriculture found that ‘43 foods show apparent, statistically reliable decline’ for protein, calcium, potassium, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid. Further research found that globally, protein intake from plant sources is expected to decrease by over 7% by 2050 as CO2 levels rise. 

climate crisis food security
Crops’ changing nutritional value caused by the climate crisis will threaten the food security of a further 138 million people in the coming decades (Source: Luke Milliron). 

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that wheat and rice, which are highly sensitive to changes in CO2,  are the main source of protein for 71% of the world’s population. A paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives predicts that given this dependence on plant-based proteins, more than 15% of the global population will be protein deficient, resulting in 90.9 million days lost to illness and 2 million deaths annually by 2050. 

When asked by POLITICO, a media company focusing on politics and policy in the US and beyond, about how changing carbohydrate ratios could affect public health, Robin Foroutan, an integrative medicine nutritionist, commented on the lack of research. “We don’t know what a minor shift in the carbohydrate ratio in the diet is ultimately going to do,” she said, pointing out that increased carbohydrates are also correlated with increases in obesity and diabetes. “To what degree would a shift in the food system contribute to that? We can’t really say.”

One way to manage the decline in nutrients is to fortify staple food crops with nutrients such as zinc, iron and calcium. Fortified foods have historically been used to treat vitamin deficiencies in wider populations. For example, Vitamin D is commonly added to orange juice to deliver this nutrient to children who cannot drink milk. 

It’s clear from Loladze’s findings, and the work conducted by teams around the world, that increasing CO2 levels and the climate crisis are changing the nutritional content of our food and threatening food security. Research indicates that this will result in mineral deficiencies and their associated health risks. What isn’t understood is the impact of increased plant-based carbohydrates on the human diet. It is imperative that more research be done on this to establish the risks that it poses, which will allow countries more time to adapt their agricultural practices to keep up with this decline in food nutrition.

Zimbabwe, once considered the ‘breadbasket’ of Africa, is facing man-made starvation as more than 60% of its population is now considered ‘food insecure’. UN official, Hilal Elver, has warned that factors such as poverty, agricultural mismanagement and corruption will  make this crisis worse.  

In Zimbabwe, there are 5.5 million people facing food insecurity in rural areas due to irregular weather patterns that have impacted harvests and 2.2 million people in urban areas due to lack of access to basic public services, including healthcare and safe drinking water. The impacts of this man-made starvation in Zimbabwe have affected the population unequally, with children and women shouldering the brunt of the burden; children are suffering from severe malnutrition, affecting the child mortality rate, which in  2018, was at 46.2 deaths per 1 000 live births. There has also been an increase in the number of women being forced into early marriage and sex work

How does war cause hunger?

While famines may entail starvation, starvation can occur without famines due to extreme levels of poverty. They can take place even when the local and overall food supplies are competent. Most hunger crises and famines have been man-made and have happened due to civil disturbance, inequitable social systems, food speculation (betting on food prices), and more. Therefore, it is important to focus on and understand the many human factors  that contribute to starvation in populations.

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According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe is facing a disastrous economic crisis. Part of it can be attributed to a severe drought and cyclone in 2019 that disrupted agricultural production. Inflation levels reached 230% in July 2019, with food prices rising 319%. The country’s GDP contracted 7.5% in 2019. Extreme poverty, defined as living on less than 1.90 USD a day, spiked in 2019, rising from 29% to 34% in 2018 due to a sharp rise in prices of food and other necessary commodities. Poverty in Zimbabwe is a result of a shrinking economy and hyperinflation. Declining GDP dampens economic activity and increases job losses and inflation levels, decreasing the value of money and eroding real disposable income. Therefore, poverty, food prices and starvation are intimately linked. Hunger is often referred to as the most severe indication of poverty and millions of people suffer from it and malnourishment because they simply cannot afford food.

The Finance and Economic Minister of Zimbabwe, Mthuli Ncube, has promised a meal subsidy of 180 million Zimbabwean dollars- roughly USD$500 000- a month in an effort to keep the price of maize meal low and stable to ensure its accessibility to the public. Furthermore, their social protection program is to be extended to include more basic necessities to soften the blow of the hyperinflated prices being charged by businesses. 

While this is a respectable effort in trying to combat this crisis, its effects may be diminished due to the reintroduction of the Zimbabwean dollar into the economy; in 2009, the country abandoned its local currency after hyperinflation made it essentially worthless. It was replaced by multiple currencies to conduct daily transactions, the most popular ones being the US Dollar and the South African Rand. This decision has further contributed to soaring inflation. Economists have accused the government of not holding enough foreign currency reserves and have advocated going back to the US Dollar to manage the high prices. Official foreign currency reserves are held to support a range of goals. These include limiting shocks by maintaining foreign currency liquidity during a time of crises, such as emergencies and natural disasters, when borrowing may be disrupted, and demonstrating a backing of their domestic currency with foreign assets. The president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has rebuked the criticism, banning the use of foreign currency in the country. Mnangagwa has justified his decision, saying that “Zimbabwe has gone back to normalcy, and the normalcy is a country having its own currency.” 

The country has received £49 million of UK aid to fund a new humanitarian and resilience program which is to last until September 2022. This is to help malnourished children and families have access to food and water during this food crisis. During the year of 2019/20, Zimbabwe has received a total of £113.5 million from the UK aid support. 

As recommended by the UN official, the government needs to put in more work towards immediate reforms in its agricultural and food systems. The country needs to reduce its dependence on imported food, a dependence that has increased due to droughts, resulting in the Zimbabwean dollar losing 61% of its value since its reintroduction into the economy, and it’s predicted to weaken further. Furthermore, while Ncube has promised a subsidy to help provide maize meal, the government also needs to support alternative forms of wheat to ensure the population can have a more balanced diet. Lastly, they recommend working towards creating conditions necessary to promote self-sufficiency and preparedness to combat possible future climate shocks that may hit the country. 

Unfortunately, Zimbabwe risks walking towards a full-blown man-made starvation in the future. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale, 25% of its rural population was estimated to be in a Crisis or Emergency (Phase 3 and 4) in mid 2019. This number has  increased to 45% in the early 2020, with 34% of the population in phase 3 and 11% in phase 4. Without following the recommendations and taking necessary steps to combat this crisis, focusing especially on child nutrition, Zimbabwe will face widespread scarcity of food and enter Phase 5, which is Famine. 

Featured image: Ulrika

A study shows that within 50 years, a billion people will either be displaced or forced to live in insufferable heat for every 1°C rise in global temperature, illustrating that the human cost of the climate crisis will be far worse than previously believed. 

The paper, which examines how the climate crisis will affect human habitats, warns that under worst-case scenarios of increasing emissions, areas where a third of the global population currently live will be as hot as the hottest parts of the Sahara desert within 50 years.

Even in the most optimistic outlook, a rise in global temperature will cause 1.2 billion people to fall outside the comfortable ‘climate niche’ where humans have lived for at least 6 000 years.

Tim Lenton, one of the researchers in the study, says, “The numbers are flabbergasting. I literally did a double take when I first saw them. I’ve previously studied climate tipping points, which are usually considered apocalyptic. But this hit home harder. This puts the threat in very human terms.”

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The majority of humans have always lived in regions where the average annual temperatures are around 6°C to 28°C, ideal for human health and food production. However, this range is shifting and shrinking as a result of anthropogenic climate change, which is dropping more and more people into what the paper describes as ‘near unliveable’ extremes.

The researchers say that they are shocked at how sensitive humanity is, because we are concentrated on land- which is warming faster than the oceans- and because most future population growth will be in already hot regions of Asia and Africa. Because of these demographic factors, the average human will experience a temperature increase of 7.5°C when global temperatures reach 3°C warming.

At this temperature, about a third of the world’s population would live in average temperatures of 29°C, conditions that are rare outside of the most scorched part of the Sahara, but with global heating of 3°C, this is expected to be the norm for 1.2 billion people in India, 485 million people in Nigeria and more than 100 million in each of Pakistan, Indonesia and Sudan. This would create hundreds of millions more climate refugees and pose challenges to food production systems. In fact, David Wallas- Wells, the author of “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming,” says that even at 2.5°C warming, the world would enter a global food deficit- needing more calories than the planet can produce, mostly thanks to drought.

Professor Marten Scheffer, one of the lead authors of the study, says, ““We did not expect humans to be so sensitive. We think of ourselves as very adaptable because we use clothes, heating and air conditioning. But, in fact, the vast majority of people live- and have always lived- inside a climate niche that is now moving as never before. There will be more change in the next 50 years than in the past 6 000 years.”

The authors hope that their findings spur policymakers to accelerate emission cuts and work together to cope with migration.

In late 2018, the UN World Meteorological Organization warned that global temperatures are on course for a 3-5°C rise this century, far overshooting the Paris Agreement target of limiting this increase to 2°C or less by 2100.

According to estimates from over 70 peer-reviewed studies, Carbon Brief paints a grim picture of the world under 2°C, 3°C and 4°C temperature rise this century:

At two degrees, the melting of ice sheets will pass a tipping point of collapse, triggering flooding in dozens of the world’s major cities and resulting in a global sea-level rise of 56cm. It is estimated that that global GDP will be cut by 13%. 400 million more people will suffer from water scarcity and heat waves in the northern latitudes will kill thousands each summer; this will be worse along the equator. In India, there would be 32 times as many extreme heat waves, each lasting five times as long and exposing 93 times more people. This is our best-case scenario.

At three degrees, southern Europe will be in permanent drought. The average drought in Central America would last 19 months, in the Caribbean, 21 and in northern Africa, 60 months- five years. Those areas burned annually by wildfires would double in the Mediterranean and sextuple in the US. Cities from Miami Beach to Jakarta will be submerged by sea-level rise and damages from river flooding will grow 30-fold in Bangladesh, 20-fold in India and up to 60-fold in the UK. This level of warming is better than we’d do if all of the nations of the world honoured their Paris commitments- which only a handful are.

At four degrees, there would be eight million cases of dengue fever each year in Latin America alone. Global grain yields would fall by as much as 50%, producing annual or close-to-annual food crises. The global economy would fall more than 30% than without climate change, and we would see at least half again as much conflict and warfare as we do today.

While great strides have been made in terms of the plummeting costs of renewable energy and the increasing global divestment from coal, carbon emissions are still growing. It is important to decrease emissions to level and then bend the curve.

One way of doing this is through a carbon tax. However, a tax needs to be far higher than any of those currently in use or being considered; The IPCC has proposed raising the cost of a tonne of carbon possibly as high as US$5 000 by 2030; they suggest this may have to increase by US$27 000 by 2100. Today, the average price of carbon across 42 major economies is US$8 per tonne.

These numbers would shock even those most optimistic; if estimates are correct, then by the end of the century, a rise in global temperature will displace up to 5 billion people, nearly two-thirds of the current global population.

Featured image by: Oxfam East Africa

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