Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Other reports in this collection Vulnerable Regions and Populations

Although one may be reasonably optimistic about the prospects of adapting the global agricultural production system to the early stages of warming, the distribution of vulnerability among regions and people is likely to be uneven. As pointed out in Section 5.3.3, in the tropics—where some crops are near their maximum temperature tolerance and where dryland, nonirrigated agriculture predominates—yields are likely to decrease with even small amounts of climate change. The livelihoods of subsistence farmers and pastoral people—who make up a large proportion of rural populations in some regions, particularly in the tropics, and who are weakly coupled to markets—also could be negatively affected. In regions where there is a likelihood of decreased rainfall, agriculture could be substantially affected regardless of latitude. However, regional economic analysis (see Table 5-4) indicates that aggregate impacts on incomes even in the most vulnerable populations may not be large.

Clearly, in addition to the foregoing generality on productivity, other features of agricultural vulnerability are likely to vary widely among people, regions, nations, and continents (see Chapters 10-17). As noted in several places in this section and elsewhere (Downing et al., 1996a), the poor—especially those living in marginal environments—will be most vulnerable to climate-induced food insecurity. Parry et al. (1999) assessed the consequences of climate change for the number of people at risk of hunger as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 1988) (see Table 5-4 for details of the study). By the 2080s, the additional number of people at risk of hunger as a result of climate change is estimated to be about 80 million. However, some regions (particularly in the arid and subhumid tropics) may be affected more. Africa is projected to experience marked reductions in yield, decreases in production, and increases in the risk of hunger as a result of climate change. The continent can expect to have 55-65 million extra people at risk of hunger by the 2080s under the HadCM2 climate scenarios. Under the HadCM3 climate scenario, the effect is even more severe, producing an estimated additional 70+ million people at risk of hunger in Africa. It should be noted, however, that these hunger estimates are based on the assumption that food prices will rise with climate change, which (as noted above) is highly uncertain as far as 80 years into the future.

Who are these extra people at risk of hunger likely to be? Downing et al. (1996b) suggest the following classes: rural smallholder producers, pastoralists, rural wage laborers, urban poor, and refugees and displaced people. In addition, they point to particular kinds of individuals: rural women, malnourished children, handicapped and infirm people, and the elderly.

height="1" vspace="12">

Other reports in this collection

IPCC Homepage