Hunger has increased for the first time in over a decade. For example, in the African Sahel, where over 30 million people are currently suffering from hunger, and where climate fluctuations are blamed for roughly 80% of the unreliable crop harvest. Arctic warming alters the jet stream and changes weather patterns, which risk simultaneous crop failure around the world leading to global food shortages and widespread food insecurity.
We will not achieve global food security without protecting the Arctic.
Climate change undermines efforts and progress made toward achieving zero hunger, and climate variability raises the risk of disruptions to food supplies and distribution. According to FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition (2017), hunger has increased for the first time in over a decade, mainly due to conflicts and climate change. Arctic warming brings more extreme weather events, land degradation and desertification, water volatility, rising sea levels, and shifting climates – all of which hamper efforts to feed the planet and increase the risk of simultaneous harvest failures across the breadbasket regions of the world (Kornhuber et al., 2020). These facets of climate change weigh heavily on small-scale and subsistence farmers, for whom heat stress reduces working hours and agricultural outputs. Together, these affect food security for the most vulnerable people.
Over the past 30 years, disasters induced by extreme weather have tripled. In countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam, extreme weather can contaminate farmland with saltwater, leading to failed crops. In the Sahel, where over 30 million people are currently suffering from hunger, climate variability is blamed for roughly 80 percent of the unreliable crop harvest. In 2017, food insecurity was the second most common reason for emigration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for a new life in North America (IOM, 2017).
Food insecurity is a widespread issue across Arctic populations. In the Canadian Arctic, Inuit households are plagued with food insecurity rates five to six times higher than the average Canadian household, exceeding 80 percent in certain communities in Nunavut and Ontario (Lubofsky, 2020). In part, this is because the annual cost of an average four-person Inuit family’s healthy diet reaches up to $23,400, far exceeding the annual median income of $17,000.