The leaked draft from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says rising global temperatures and resulting weather extremes could undermine crop production and drive up prices at a time when the demand for food is expected to soar.
The findings – which have been widely reported by major media outlets over the weekend– represent a significant departure from earlier, more hopeful assessments that estimated negative impacts on crops in some regions would be offset by increased production in other areas.
The world’s leading climate scientists conclude that rising temperatures will make it harder for crops to thrive – with the potential to reduce overall production by as much as 2% each decade for the rest of this century.
At the same time, global demand is expected to rise 14% each decade, exponentially increasing pressure on the global food system and driving more hunger and poverty among the world’s most vulnerable populations.
The leaked draft also warns against exacerbated threats to human health, such malnutrition due to the unfolding food crisis, reduced labor productivity resulting from climate driven diseases, or even death and injury from extreme weather events.
The impact climate change has on food supplies will not only exacerbated hunger, poverty and disease, but it will also create more conflict.
According to the scientists, shortfalls in staple crops will lead to price shocks that hit the world’s poor hardest.
This is likely to trigger an increase in violent protest and civil war, as well as conflict over ever scarcer water and food supplies.
Agricultural risks are greatest for tropical countries, as projected impacts will exceed their capacity to adapt, and they already exhibit higher poverty rates than less vulnerable regions.
These highly exposed countries are also worst affected by exacerbated threats to human health, which result from climate driven diseases and extreme weather events.
The full consequences of climate change will be far reaching as a warmer world is also expected to take its toll on the global economy and threaten ecosystems and biodiversity.
The latest findings further highlight the need for fast and bold climate action from governments.
Scientists are now more certain than ever about the negative impact humans have on the global climate, and this leaked new report demonstrates once again that strong, urgent and concerted action must be taken to modernize our economies, clean up our energy systems and phase out climate polluting emissions.
At the same time governments must mobilize the funding for these solutions as well as for vital adaptation measures in affected regions.
With the latest round of UN climate talks to kick off in Poland next week, the new warning puts pressure on governments to make progress towards a global climate agreement in 2015.