RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – A new study from RTI International projects global chronic hunger unless policy is put in place to combat the negative effects that climate change could have on the availability and access to nutritious food.
About 10% of the global population was estimated to be experiencing chronic hunger or facing severe food insecurity, according to estimates that were made prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without any action, the food chain challenge will increase the aggregate total years of life lost due to premature mortality and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) by 30 million years by 2050 compared to 2010, the study says.
This study is not the only alarm being sounded. In fact, a fellow at the University College London’s Institute for Strategy, Resilience and Security, told CNBC that the problem is being understated by economists.
“Fundamentally, the economists have totally misrepresented the science and ignored it where it contradicts their bias that climate change is not a big deal because, in their opinion, capitalism can handle anything,” Keen said.
The RTI study calls for immediate steps to counter the problem.
An increased investment of $25.5 billion annually, delivered with a comprehensive investment strategy from global and local policymakers and decision makers, could potentially offset the negative impacts of climate change, the authors of the study found.
The study, conducted by RTI International, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), found that climate change and population growth, and now a global pandemic, disrupted food systems.
“Climate change exacerbates the pressures on food systems to deliver healthy diets to everyone but investing in food systems can reduce the years lost that we project,” said Timothy Sulser, Senior Scientist at IFPRI, in a statement.
The researchers believe that reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of “Zero Hunger” by 2030 is now a nearly insurmountable task, unless “extraordinary policy action” is taken to address food production, distribution, and policy, including the increased investment in food systems.
“Investment in agricultural R&D, irrigation systems, market access and infrastructure are essential to counteract the effects of factors that increase DALYs in coming decades,” said Robert Beach, a senior economist and fellow at RTI. “To meet the needs and nutrition requirements for society, it is important for policymakers to invest more broadly in food systems, rather than focusing on the production of calories.”
Researchers modeled the global food system, and sought to study the relationships between regional food availability and disability-adjusted life years to project the total number of estimated disability-adjusted life years that would be caused by chronic and hidden hunger, exacerbated by climate change.
“Strengthening food systems now, along with health, education and employment opportunities can reduce the effects of climate change and population growth on global hunger,” said Beach.