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CLIMATE ACTION PROGRAMME

4 April 2018

Keeping warming to 1.5°C could prevent mass food shortages

New research led by The University of Exeter has highlighted the major benefits to keeping global temperatures to within 1.5°C compared to 2 °C.

The new paper, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, analyses the different impacts of meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on food security in developing countries.

The landmark Paris accord commits countries to limit warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”.

Researchers modelled the different impacts of a warmer climate on 122 developing countries largely taken from Asia, Africa and South America. The data show a range of extreme weather events impacting agriculture and food production in these different regions, from increased drought to longer and heavier rainfall periods.

These patterns will affect food security, but are less severe if warming is controlled by half a degree. Approximately 76 percent of countries analysed would be less susceptible to food shortages at 1.5°C than 2°C.

If warming reaches 2°C the impacts are severe, but vary between regions; for example, the Ganges River in India could double in water flow while the Amazon in South America could decline by 25 percent.

In four nations, Oman, Bangladesh, Mauritania and Yemen, warming of 2°C could cause unprecedented levels of vulnerability to food insecurity “that are greater than any seen in the present day”, according to the research model used.

“Climate change is expected to lead to more extremes of both heavy rainfall and drought, with different effects in different parts of the world”, said Professor Richard Betts, Chair in Climate Impacts at the University of Exeter, who led the study.

“Some change is already unavoidable, but if global warming is limited to 1.5°C, this vulnerability is projected to remain smaller than at 2°C”, he added.

The team also included experts taken from the Met Office, the European Commission, the Technical University of Crete, Cranfield University and the Rossby Centre in Sweden.

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