Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Further memorandum submitted by Professor Martin Parry


    —  Reduced moisture combined with heat stress will probably reduce world-wide the yield of major food staples (wheat, rice, maize) by 5 to 10 per cent by 2050 under current best-estimate projections of climate change[3].

    —  The greatest reductions are expected to be in Africa (mainly the sub-humid parts, i.e. all but equatorial Africa), the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent.

    —  The knock-on effect of this would be by 2050 to reduce global food production by perhaps 5 to 10 per cent from levels it otherwise would have been, and to increase food prices by more than 15 per cent3.


    —  Price increases will leave low income groups less able to afford sufficient food, and hunger is estimated to increase, probably by about 50 million at risk of hunger by 2050 (above the number estimated to occur without climate change).

    —  The projected increase in hunger due to climate change is almost entirely in Africa, due to relatively high levels of vulnerability stemming from poverty and weak infrastructure.

    —  The poorest groups within the poorest countries are those most likely to be negatively affected, due to low levels of technology and being marginalised from sources of information and ability.


    —  Mitigation through emissions reduction will delay and reduce but not avoid the problem (see accompanying memorandum on Millions at Risk[4]). Impacts are almost certainly inevitable and adaptation will be essential.

    —  Reducing poverty and empowering the more vulnerable would generally increase resilience to climate change. Without concerted action on this, the difference in ability between groups and countries to adapt autonomously to climate will increase the current difference between rich and poor. Poorer groups will be most adversely affected, while more wealthy ones less so.

    —  Transfer of knowledge from developed to developing countries, specifically about technologies designed to respond to climate change, would increase the latter's ability to adapt.

    —  Specific adaptive actions to increase resilience of agriculture to climate include: development of drought-resistant crop varieties, use of more efficient forms of irrigation (eg drip-feed rather than overhead), and effective pricing of water. Most technologies exist now; the issue is implementation rather than research.

    —  But there are also key research efforts needed, such as in plant breeding for climate change. A global effort is required to develop forms of agriculture better suited to a warmer world; one where droughts and floods may be more common. Only the public sector will take the necessary long-term view. Most agricultural research is now in the private sector, where climate change is seen as too long-term to deserve attention. The public- and foundation-funded CGIAR[5] should take a lead here. These activities should be supported by DFID.

    —  The policies of response to climate change most likely to succeed are those which are integrated into a strategy for sustainable development (see accompanying memorandum on Millions at Risk).

Professor Martin Parry,

Jackson Environment Institute,

School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

January 2002

3   M Parry and M Livermore (ed) "A New assessment of the Global Effects of Climate Change", Global Environmental Change, Vol. 9 Special issue, 2000.; also reported in IPCC Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report, Geneva 2002. Back

4   Ev 39. Back

5   Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. Back

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