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Scientists warn bulging population could spawn world starvation

Scientists warn bulging population could spawn world starvation

As Earth Day celebrations are happening everywhere today, scientists are contemplating how to increase already declining food supplies by 60 percent in order to meet the needs of a massive global population expected in 2050.

On Friday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported drought-related crop losses in 2012 across the US were the worst since the 1950’s, with Texas being one of the hardest hit states.

Research shows that droughts gripped two-thirds of the nation, while other parts of the country experienced mega-flooding and record breaking rainfall.

The upshot is that crops won’t do well in dry, rock-hard soil or in fields covered in a foot of water.

Corn is a crop that is widely used as a direct food product, as an ingredient in many other food staples, for livestock-feed and for ethanol fuel. The USDA reported that 2012 had a 27 percent crop in estimated bushels for the year.

Starvation and human misery have been going on in other parts of the world as a result of climate change related to droughts and water shortages for several decades already, with Africa being particularly devastated.

Experts say declining agricultural yields, combined with a global population that is estimated to exceed 9 billion in the next few decades, will cause food prices to more than double by 2050. The crisis could cause massive human migration in search of food and water, while millions of people could die of starvation.

Frank Rijsberman, head of the world’s consortium of crop research centers, was quoted as saying this about the dire situation:

Food production will have to rise 60% by 2050 just to keep pace with expected global population increase and changing demand. Climate change comes on top of that. The annual production gains we have come to expect … will be taken away by climate change. We are not so worried about the total amount of food produced so much as the vulnerability of the one billion people who are without food already and who will be hit hardest by climate change. They have no capacity to adapt.

The US National Climate Assessment report includes the research of 60 scientists and it predicts that agriculture, livestock, crops and fruit harvests will be negatively impacted by temperature variances, droughts and water shortages across many US regions.

A warming and wetter global environment will also lead to more weeds, diseases and pests that will cause expensive herbicides to be less effective.

As reported in The Guardian, lead scientist Jerry Hatfield, director for the US national laboratory for agriculture and the environment confirmed that anomalous climate patterns are already taking their toll with “very hot nights, fewer cool days, more heat waves, mega-storms and flooding.”

In addition, the report details catastrophic harvest around the world in recent years, including Russia, Ukraine, Canada and Australia, with Asian nations also suffering crop losses. Wheat harvests dropped 33 percent in Russia, 19 percent in the Ukraine, 14 percent in Canada and 9 percent in Australia.

United Nations World Food Programme director, Erthan Cousin said this: “We are entering an uncertain and risky period. Climate change is the game changer that increases exposure to high and volatile food prices and increases the vulnerability of the hungry poor, especially those living in conflict zones or areas of marginal agricultural productivity. We must act quickly to protect the world’s poorest people.”

Food experts are gathering for two major conferences to contemplate and study solutions on how to feed the 9 billion people expected to be alive in 2050, with the poor being most adversely affected.

Related report:

Earth Day 2013: Has environmental activism made a difference in 43 years?

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Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director, Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for keystone-prairie-dogs.com, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.

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