World Environment News

Global warming to hit key food crops - UN agency

Date: 08-Nov-01
Country: MOROCCO

The grim prediction was made by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in a document released in Marrakesh which hosts a U.N.-sponsored climate change conference.

The report said scientists have found "evidence that rising temperatures, linked with emissions of greenhouse gases, can damage the ability of vital crops such as wheat, rice and maize."

New studies indicate that yields could fall by as much as 10 per cent for every one degree Celsius rise in areas such as the Tropics.

It said that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N. team of scientists that advise governments, estimate that average global temperatures in the Tropics could climb by up to three degrees Celsius by 2100.

According to U.N. scientists, current climate models predict a global warming of about 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius between 1990 and 2100.

The UNEP report said a second group of the IPCC found that key cash crops such as coffee and tea in some of the major growing regions will also be vulnerable over the coming decades to global warming.

"They fear that desperate farmers will be forced into higher, cooler, mountainous areas intensifying pressure on sensitive forests and threatening wildlife and the quality and quantity of water supplies," it said.

The findings on staple food crops came from researchers at the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

"Billions of people across the tropics depend on crops such as rice, maize and wheat, for their very survival," the report quoted UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer as saying.

"These new findings indicate that large numbers are facing acute hunger and malnutrition unless the world acts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases," he added.

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