Healthcare News

Climate Change Threat To Food And Water Supplies

February 20, 2017

Scientists from the world's leading industrial countries have warned of dire consequences, particularly for developing countries, unless action is taken to adapt to threats to food and water supplies now and in the future.

The national academies of science from the G8 nations, including the Royal Society, along with Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa have issued a statement on climate change adaptation and the transition to a low carbon society. In the statement are set out key issues that must be addressed at the G8 Summit in July.

Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society said: "Food and water shortages are now a dangerous reality particularly in many developing countries. In the coming years, they will be aggravated by rising populations, and climate change. These threats must be properly assessed and solutions identified if we are to avoid costly mistakes from investing in technologies and infrastructure that do not take climate change into account."

Alongside the need for adaptation to the changes being wrought by climate change, the statement has also highlighted the need for concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Central to this is a call for governments to agree, by 2009, a timetable, funding and a coordinated plan for the construction of a significant number of carbon capture and storage demonstration plants.

Martin Rees continued: "Coal will continue to be one of the world's primary energy sources for the next 50 years. If coal burning power plants and industries continue to pump out carbon dioxide unabated we face a growing risk of triggering a dangerous and irreversible change in the climate. Techniques for carbon capture and storage must therefore be developed urgently. So much is at stake that current efforts are quite inadequate. The nations at the G8 summit should commit themselves to a much expanded and coordinated programme. The sooner this technology can be proven and widely adopted, and annual carbon dioxide emissions stopped from rising, the lower the risk of catastrophic climate change."

The statement, delivered to the Japanese Government which is hosting the next G8 meeting on July 7-9, also highlights the need for governmental action to:

- Improve the ability to predict and adapt to climate change impacts, particularly in the developing world

- Put in place economic and policy measures to accelerate transition to a low-carbon society with action at an individual and national level

- Support and invest in a range of technologies which can aid in greenhouse gas reduction and in adapting to climate change and make sure these technologies are made available to the developing world.

Key vulnerabilities to climate change are outlined in the statement and include water resources, food supply, health, coastal settlements and ecosystems such as the arctic, the tundra, the alps and coral reefs. The geographical regions most likely to suffer from climate change are Africa, the densely populated Asian mega deltas, the Arctic and small islands.

The scientists believe that the long term goal must be to stabilise the climate. This requires that greenhouse gas emissions be limited to the net absorption capacity of the earth, which is less than half of current emissions.

The Academies have also presented a statement on global health issues. This stresses the need for greater international collaboration and coordination on health issues such as water, sanitation, hygiene, food safety, access to medical information and treatments and training for health professionals.

Read the 2008 statement 'Climate change adaptation and the transition to a low carbon society' here.

Royal Society