Hunger pangs

Map highlights food insecurity based on action and inaction on climate change

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This story originally appeared on The Daily Climate, an independent, foundation-funded online news service covering energy, the environment and climate change.

The fate of world hunger is in your hands.

Well, not quite, but officials from the U.N.’s World Food Programme and the Met Office Hadley Centre recently unveiled a website ( to attendees of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference that lets users control future emissions and climate adaptation scenarios, and see what impact they will have on global food security.

You can select from present day, the 2050s and the 2080s, and examine what each country’s food security vulnerability will be depending on emissions and adaptation.

“This map paints a stark picture of how climate disasters drive hunger. In Paris, we must decide between a future world where ending hunger is achievable—or one where we and every future generation continue this losing struggle responding to the scourge of global hunger,” Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme, said in a statement.

The most vulnerable countries are in sub-Saharan Africa—a region where one in four people is already undernourished. Asia and both South and Central America are vulnerable as well.

The interactive map paints a drastically different picture depending on your level of optimism. Take a country like Mozambique—highly agricultural and full of subsistence farmers, but prone to climate-related impacts such as increased floods, drought and tornadoes. It is, in fact, one of the most disaster prone countries in the world.

It is estimated that about one-third of the population (26 million people) is already “chronically” food insecure. Under a scenario of low emissions and high climate adaptation, Mozambique’s vulnerability to food shortages rises an additional 8 percent by the 2050s.

But, with high emissions and no adaptation, food insecurity rises 36 percent higher than today. And, projecting this scenario to the 2080s, the country’s food insecurity increases 60 percent over present day numbers.

The World Food Programme’s most recent estimates find that, globally, about 795 million people already do not have enough food to be healthy. Scientists warn climate change does, and will continue to, exacerbate this, largely through increased disasters such as prolonged droughts, floods, tornadoes and sea level rise.

Even if heat-trapping gas emissions totally stopped, millions of people would still face climate-caused food insecurity by the 2050s because of a delayed response from previous emissions. But the map—which works by using climate projections, economic models and current food availability stats—shows we can curb how many people will suffer.

And that large swing in hunger prevalence in places like Mozambique will be, in part, determined by what comes out of Paris this month, where delegates from 195 countries descended last week to the United Nations climate change meeting dubbed COP21, or the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties.

The goal? A legally binding agreement to keep the warming of the planet’s average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius over the temperature since the Industrial Revolution.

The linchpin of such an accord will be an agreement on major global carbon emission reductions. The other sticking point is money: how much are rich nations willing to pony up to help the Mozambiques of the world mitigate and adapt to climate change?

The World Food Programme has an ambitious goal of ending world hunger in the next 15 years. And Cousin said this new map is illustrative of the urgency at the Paris talks on this effort.

“Only if leaders get it right in Paris will we end hunger by 2030 and provide future generations with the opportunity to enjoy sustainable and durable global food security,” Cousin said.