Society

World hunger has spiked due to extreme weather and climate change

Producing quality food is harder under extreme heat conditions.

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Extreme weather is responsible for wiping out food sources malnourished people rely on, the United Nations warned in a report released Tuesday.

Researchers saw this coming.

One in nine people around the world are malnourished, according to research published in the UN’s “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” annual report. That’s a total of 821 million people who were malnourished in 2017, versus 815 million in 2016, according to the BBC. The increase, which occured over the past three years, reached global poverty numbers unseen in a decade. The UN’s goal to end hunger by 2030 now faces a real challenge.

“What is alarming about this analysis is that climate variability and climate extremes now are contributing to the rise in hunger,” Cindy Holleman, an economist and editor of the report, said to the Guardian. “Not just emergency levels of hunger, but chronic hunger.”

Droughts and floods caused by climate shock were noted as the key factors driving malnutrition in 2017. Conflict and economic downturns also play a part, according to the Guardian.

At this rate, climate change’s effect on the environment is bound to keep going in a concerning direction. The phenomenon caused by the increase of greenhouse gases directly harms major crops like rice, wheat, and corn, and it’s only supposed to get worse as temperatures become more unnatural.

Not only have periods of extreme heat been more frequent in the last five years, but fluctuating rainy seasons and unequal distribution of rainfall also don’t help, the Guardian noted.

The highest malnourished populations tend to reflect the regions experiencing climate extremes, according to the report. South America and Africa are the continents carrying the heaviest hunger burden. Asia is making strides to fight malnourishment.

Malnutrition manifests itself in different ways. The report cites higher obesity numbers, and anemia prevalence as signs. Mothers also aren’t breastfeeding as long as is recommended for optimal health. Child stunting, another symptom of malnutrition, is on the decline.

What can be done to fight world hunger in the age of climate change? The UN report suggests moving toward agriculture that considers nutrition needs. Additionally, the organization said there’s a need for food systems that help produce safe quality food.

The report stresses policies that integrate climate change adaptation and help make the situation less severe, are more necessary than ever. Disaster risk reduction should also be prioritized.

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