Climate Change Is Already Impacting Vulnerable Communities, Says Report

This week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on the impact of climate change. The report provides a much sharper warning than previous ones about the threat posed to food security, writes Richard Choularton, head of WFP's climate resilience unit.

ROME -- The warnings in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are even more serious when you consider some of the other risks and mega-trends that the authors highlight. I refer to poverty and social inequality, forexample, along with urbanization and the globalization of food systems.
For the most food insecure and vulnerable people – many of whom live in highly degraded environments that amplify even small climate shocks into food crises –- the new report is a stark reminder of a reality they are already facing.

Climate change is projected to slow down economic growth, erode food security, exacerbate poverty in most developing countries, and create new poverty traps in both developed and developing countries. The report provides high confidence that negative impacts of climate change on crop yields to date have been more common than positive impacts. Crop yields could decline by up to 2% per decade for the rest of this century.

Disproportionate effect on poor

hut completely under water

Rural livelihoods will be particularly affected, through effects on water supply, food security and agricultural incomes, as well as shifts in production areas of food and non-food crops across the world. These things are expected to disproportionately affect the poor and marginalized in rural areas. 

Here I'm thinking about female-headed households and those with limited access to land, modern agricultural inputs, infrastructure, and education.

In urban and rural areas, wage-labour-dependent poor households who are net buyers of food are expected to be particularly affected by food price increases.

Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts, such as poverty and economic shocks. Increased conflict, as well as extreme weather events and longer-term changes in climatic conditions, are all projected to increase human displacement.

Disaster risk management

In addition to the potential impacts on climate change, the IPCC identifies progress on adaptation. However, while adaptation is increasingly being included in planning and policy processes, evidence of implementation of adaptation responses is more limited. Where action is being taken, the IPCC highlights that insurance programs, social protection measures, and disaster risk management may enhance long-term livelihood resilience among the poor and marginalized. Trade reform and investment can also improve market access for small-scale farmers.

While the IPCC report highlights the growing risks of climate change, governments and organizations such as WFP are proactively taking steps to include climate risks in future planning, and we are already implementing large-scale resilience efforts in many countries in which we operate. 

Read more about impacts of climate change on food security.

WFP and Climate Change

WFP is developing innovative new food assistance tools that help food insecure households adapt to climate change and manage climate risks. Through the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative, WFP, Oxfam America, and Swiss Re are working to scale up the provision of drought microinsurance to people who cannot traditional access insurance through safety nets.

WFP is the second largest multi-lateral implementing entity of the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund, working with national governments to design and implement concrete climate change adaptation projects in Ecuador, Egypt, Mauritania, Nepal, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.  
In WFP’s new strategic plan, helping food insecure communities to build resilience and adapt to climate change is a priority. Already we are implementing large- scale resilience building efforts in many countries around the world.