June 23, 2018
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Climate and food in 2012

By Pamela Person, Special to the BDN

On April 2, the U.S. temperature records were released for March 2012 — 7,775 record high daily temperatures and 7,517 record high nightly temperatures were set or tied, compared with 287 record lows. Last month, a British scientist reported that Arctic sea ice has not been reforming in the winter as expected since 2007.

University of Maine climatologists, just returned from Chilean Andean glaciers, have found significant melting there. The worldwide atmospheric carbon dioxide emission level in February 2012 was 393.65 parts per million — the highest level in 800,000 years.

No longer are “scientific models” being used to warn us of what might be coming — it is the facts on the ground. The climate is changing at a faster rate than the models had predicted. We now have to adapt to warmer temperatures, stronger storms, droughts, wildfires and rising seas worldwide. In addition, we need to change our energy sources to less fossil fuels.

The implications for food and farming are serious. Increasingly volatile food prices, such as when major droughts hit in 2008, have led to major increases in global hunger. And our national security agencies recently issued a report citing climate change as a major threat to our U.S. security: Disruptions of food supplies from the changing climate worldwide are leading to environmental refugees and unstable governments.

It’s time we took action to address this growing threat to our global food system. Last month I attended, as the League of Women Voters of Maine’s representative, a conference sponsored by Oxfam America’s GROW Campaign, which explored needed changes to help small-scale farmers around the world adapt to the realities of a changing climate.

After the devastating food price spikes of 2008, the U.S. took steps to reinvest in agriculture by increasing development assistance for agriculture, including building resilience to severe climate impacts. This needed change must be sustained over the long-term.

And while this long-term investment in agriculture and food security is desperately needed, short-term responses to failed crops are also essential. For example, we should repair our current food aid system by increasing the local and regional purchase in developing countries of the food needed to feed the hungry. Local and regional purchase can support farmers while reaching more people; reform of food aid can mean reaching up to 17 million more people than the program currently serves without one additional dollar of aid.

Urge our congressional delegation to support changes to food aid proposed for the Farm Bill. This reform can support the farmers who are so vital to feeding many of the world’s poorest people, especially in the face of a changing climate.

Less than 1 percent of the national budget goes to international aid. As three soldiers summarized, “better seeds than bullets” to build international support for the United States.

Pamela Person of Orland is a co-founder of the Coalition for Sensible Energy and Maine Global Climate Change.

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