Climate Action

How countries with the highest food insecurity suffer the worst impacts of climate change

Just 0.08% of global CO2 emissions are caused by the countries having highest food insecurity

Just 0.08% of global CO2 emissions are caused by the countries having highest food insecurity Image: REUTERS/Kamal Kishore

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Climate Crisis

The countries with higher food insecurity contribute the least to global warming, according to a new report by Christian Aid on the impact of climate change on global food security.

The study, Hunger Strike: The climate and food vulnerability index, found that the 10 most food-insecure nations in the world generate just 0.08% of global carbon emissions.

The double trouble of food insecurity and global warming

As the planet warms, agriculture and food supplies are being disrupted, which is disproportionately impacting underdeveloped countries.

The countries with highest food insecurity scores in the world
The countries with highest food insecurity scores in the world Image: Christian Aid

Burundi, which tops Christian Aid's food-insecurity table, is highly dependent on small-scale agriculture, which employs around 90% of its workforce. Its farmers are vulnerable to the increasing number - and severity - of droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events caused by climate change.

In a country where conflict and political unrest have been a constant presence, longer and hotter dry seasons represent an additional threat to food supplies. Its chronic malnutrition rates are the highest in the world, explain the report's authors.

Despite its high food insecurity, the African nation’s economy has the smallest carbon footprint of any country, producing just 0.027 tonnes of CO2 per person – a figure so low, it’s often rounded down to zero, according to Christian Aid. For context, the emissions generated by a single US citizen are equal to 581 people in Burundi.

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Coping with change

It’s a similar story for other agriculture-dependent economies. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s second-smallest carbon polluter and ranks just behind Burundi for food insecurity.

Having endured conflict, internal displacement and Ebola outbreaks, climate change poses an additional threat. Parts of the country are increasingly prone to floods, which often leads to soil erosion, landslides and crop failures. And due to higher temperatures and humidity, outbreaks of disease in livestock and crops are more common.

Communities in the country’s Great Lakes region could see fish stocks depleted due to rising water temperatures.

Off Africa’s east coast, the island nation of Madagascar, with the third-highest food insecurity in the world, faces a constant risk of cyclones, flooding and droughts. The past few decades have seen wetter rainy seasons during cyclones, which by 2100 are forecast to increase in intensity by 50%.

Climate change is expected to produce increasingly intense rainy seasons, but hotter and dryer summer months, according to the Christian Aid report.

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Time to address food insecurity

Urgent action is needed to address food insecurity, and tackling the underlying challenge of climate change will be key.

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis (like food insecurity) the world needs to roughly halve global emissions by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050 or earlier. Alongside policy changes, governments of all countries must make fundamental changes, such as promoting renewable energy, moving away from unsustainable agricultural practices and implementing rewilding programmes.

“In a just world, our problems would be something we could address ourselves. But because we haven’t caused this climate breakdown, we alone cannot solve it,” said Philip Galgallo, Christian Aid’s country director for Burundi.

“We need richer, more polluting countries to cut their emissions rapidly if we’re going to hold back the ravages of climate change and reverse their effects. Because of the global nature of climate change, this is an opportunity for the world to act together in solidarity and fairness," he added.

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Climate ActionIndustries in DepthFood and Water
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