Hunger “may define 21st century”

As the earth's climate changes and farmers struggle to grow enough food, hunger may become “the defining human tragedy of this century”, the Guardian reported, citing a report by Oxfam International. Some of the world's staple crops will be affected by drought and altered rainfall patterns, Oxfam said, and the implications for millions of people could be disastrous.

“Climate change’s most savage impact on humanity in the near future is likely to be in the increase in hunger … the countries with existing problems in feeding their people are those most at risk from climate change,” warns the report, Suffering the Silence. It added: “Millions of farmers will have to give up traditional crops as they experience changes in the seasons that they and their ancestors have depended on.”

Published as world leaders prepare to meet at the Group of Eight summit conference in Italy, the report says that farmers around the world already are seeing changes in weather patterns that are leading to increased ill-health, hunger and poverty.

While Oxfam’s evidence is anecdotal, according to researcher John Magrath, the results show striking consistency around the world. “Farmers are all saying very similar things: the seasons are changing,” he said. “Moderate, temperate seasons are shrinking and vanishing. Seasons are becoming hotter and drier, rainy seasons shorter and more violent.”

As well as reducing yields of major crops such as rice and maize in agricultural areas, Oxfam said, rising temperatures also are affecting productivity in factories. Cities in the tropics – including Delhi and Bangkok — are becoming some of the most dangerous places in the world as heat stress increases and mortality rates rise.

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