Press Releases

    Note to Correspondents

    Note No. 223
    21 November 2002


    VIENNA, 21 November (UN Information Service) -- Whilst many developed countries will substantially gain agricultural production potential, forty of the world’s poorest and food insecure countries, projected to account for a third of the world’s population, will loose up to a fifth of their cereal production in the 2080s due to climate change, according to a new report -- "Climate Change and Agricultural Vulnerability" commissioned by the United Nations and prepared by the International Institute for Applied systems Analysis.

    Most of the international negotiations, such as the Kyoto Protocol, have focused on climate change mitigation and there is an urgent need to put the issue of adaptation on the international agenda. This is especially critical as adaptation of agriculture to the future impacts of climate change will require intensive world-wide research efforts over many years to deliver the means and measures for adaptation and coping.

    The last month’s COP8 New Delhi declaration stressed that "high priority must be given to adapting to the adverse impacts of climate change" and called for identification of priorities and utilization of the "Special Climate Fund and the Least Developed Country Fund" ...and "full implementation of existing commitments under the Climate Change convention and the Marrakech accords" to support developing countries to cope with the impacts of climate change. The declaration highlighted Africa as the region suffering most from the combined impacts of climate change and poverty.

    The IIASA study provides an integrated ecological-economic assessment of the impact of future climate change and development scenarios for all countries and regions in the world, developed and developing. This country level geographical information provides for a comprehensive policy analysis to identify the priorities for climate change adaptation and coping. The results for the 2080s highlight,

    The world’s boreal and arctic ecosystems are likely to decline by 60% due to a northward shift of thermal regimes, thus threatening the unique biodiversity in these areas.

    The arid land areas in developing countries will increase by about 5-8%. Almost a billion people, and in Africa alone some 180 million people derive their livelihoods from agriculture in arid areas.

    While strong gains in crop production potential occur in North America and Europe, significant losses, however, are projected for Sub-Saharan Africa.

    With relatively high economic growth in developing countries in the next 80 years and with moderate population increase, the number of hungry in the world can be reduced in the 2080s. However, the results indicate that there is little progress in reducing hunger to the 2020s, thus implying that development will have to be targeted to the vulnerable populations if we are to meet the millennium goals of reducing hunger by half in 2015.

    In the 2080s Asia’s agricultural GDP declines by 4%, Africa’s by up to 9%, whilst North America’s agricultural GDP increases up to 13%.

    The results of the IPCC development path scenarios reveal a growing dependence of developing countries on net cereal imports of between 170 million and 430 million tons. Climate change will add to this dependence, increasing net cereal imports of developing regions by up to 40%.

    The IIASA report also raises the issue of equity and fairness as the developing countries have contributed little to the causes of global warming, yet many of the socially, economically and environmentally vulnerable countries will bear the additional brunt of climate change through loss of food production potential. Combating climate change is vital to the pursuit of sustainable development as much as the pursuit of sustainable development is integral to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

    National governments and the international community must give agriculture and the rural sector the highest priority in terms of resources allocation, subsidy reforms and adoption of development polices that are locally relevant and globally consistent, to respond to the threat of climate change. Only then can progress be made to achieve sustainable development, and particularly the goals of reducing hunger and poverty in the world.

    For more information contact:

    Günther Fischer

    Tel (43) 2236 807 292;


    Mahendra Shah

    Tel (43) 2236 807 508;


    Harrij van Velthuizen

    Tel (43) 2236 807 558;


    Copies of the report will be distributed at the VIC Press Conference, and are also available
    (together with graphics) electronically at:

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