In addition to causing unspeakable suffering, the war in Ukraine has also triggered a global food crisis. It’s a glimpse of what will happen if we don’t stop global warming from getting out of control.
Ukraine and Russia together export more than a quarter of the world’s wheat. At least half of all imported wheat in 26 countries comes from war-torn regions, and wheat is an important source of nutrition. With the reduction of importable wheat and a 20 percent rise in global wheat prices, many people will face increased food insecurity.
This is what happens when you disrupt the global food system – which is exactly what climate change is doing, except on a larger scale and with more lasting consequences.
Impact of climate change on food systems
Consider the impact on agriculture as droughts intensify in some places and major floods become more common elsewhere. Or the effects of when destructive insects spread due to rising temperatures, with scorching heat waves increasing in frequency. The result will be crop loss, invasive species, human migration, and more.
That means we need to reduce the pollution that contributes to climate change — and help the world’s farmers adapt to the warming that’s already baked into the system.
The good news is that farmers can have both.
Providing farmers with a better path forward
Reducing climate pollution will take a series of strategies, starting with a shift to a clean energy economy. But farmers can contribute—and profit from—in specific ways. Agriculture feeds the world, but it is also one of the largest contributors to climate emissions. We cannot achieve global climate goals without climate-smart agriculture.
One-third of global methane pollution comes from livestock. By capturing and reducing methane, we can rapidly slow the rate of warming this decade. By helping farmers optimize fertilizer use, we can increase crop yields in developing countries while reducing another powerful climate pollutant, global nitrous oxide.
Even if farmers reduce agricultural emissions, they can make their farms more resilient to climate impacts that are already there. This can include financial incentives to build healthier soils to absorb heavier, climate-change-driven rainfall or to grow different crops better suited to changing growing conditions.
Strategies to support the community are key
We must pay special attention to protecting and improving the livelihoods of communities vulnerable to climate impacts and food system failures.
Here’s an example of how it could work in practice: In the village of Kalyanavenkateshapuram in India, many residents use biogas stoves to cook, using cow dung instead of wood as fuel.This has had a range of positive impacts on the environment and human well-being, including improved indoor air quality, less drudgery of no longer collecting firewood, additional revenue from reduced emissions, and a reduction of 3-5 tonnes of climate pollution per year each stove. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of climate pollution a car produces in a year.
These are the types of programs that meet the needs of the community and Climate change – we have to massively scale up.
Let’s use this wake-up call wisely
A resilient global food system goes beyond agriculture and food supply. It also includes seafood – the main source of protein and nutrition for many of the world’s low-income populations. Just as agriculture must evolve to combat climate change, fisheries must adapt to the migration of fish to cooler waters, and supply chains must prepare for more frequent supply shocks in the future.
The war in Ukraine is a wake-up call, not only for its immediate geopolitical implications, but also for its implications for solutions to climate change. We have the power to build a new paradigm that supports a strong and resilient global food system – including smallholder farmers, local production and shorter supply chains – while helping to protect us all from food shortages, price spikes and climate change warm influence.
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