More famine likely as climate warms, Oxfam warns

This year's food shortages and famine are a sign of what's to come if the world doesn't get climate change under control, Oxfam warns.
Refugees from southern Somalia fill receptacles with rain water at a refugee camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, Sept. 5, 2011. Drought and political instability in East Africa left more than 13 million people struggling to find food last summer, and Oxfam is warning that could happen more often if the world doesn't get climate change under control. (Farah Abdi Warsameh/Associated Press)

This year’s food shortages and famine are a sign of what’s to come if the world doesn’t get climate change under control, Oxfam is warning.

The international development agency made a call for action the day before the UN kicks off its annual climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.

The 2010 conference, in Cancun, Mexico, resolved few of the issues remaining after the 2009 Copenhagen conference, leaving some pinning their hopes on this year's Durban conference.

Oxfam warns that without action, the world will see more food insecurity as well as skyrocketing food prices and unpredictable crop yields.

"Our failure to cope with the climate variability and shocks of today presents a daunting outlook for food security tomorrow," Oxfam said in a report released Sunday.

"For governments around the world this serves as an urgent call to act at the UN climate talks in Durban if the extreme weather events witnessed in 2010-11 are not to be a grim foretaste of future suffering and hunger."

Canadians donated more than $70 million to aid East Africa last summer as a famine gripped the region, devastating more than 13 million people.

Pakistan is facing food shortages after massive flooding.

In 2010, China, Russia and Brazil saw droughts that affected their food production.

Oxfam says the world will see more of these issues if countries don't act to mitigate warming.

Developed countries need to do more to cut emissions: Oxfam

Most research so far has focused on how crop yields will change as a result of warming and drought, the report says. But that’s not the only factor that is likely to threaten access to food for people around the world.

"More frequent and extreme weather events will compound things by creating food shortages and price spikes and destabilizing markets, worsening the structural price rises that the models already predict. One need not rely on imagination to understand how this could play out for the world’s poorest people."

Developed countries need to do more to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, the aid group said, pointing out they have collectively committed to cuts that would bring world emissions 12 to 18 per cent lower than 1990 levels by 2020, instead of 40 per cent.

They also need to get a $100 billion Green Climate Fund up and running by 2013 and direct half the resources to adapting to climate change, the report said, as well as put a price on carbon for international shipping.

It’s not clear how the world will raise the money for the fund.

One suggestion, which Canada has rejected — and lobbied against at international meetings — is a fee on financial transactions.

But the U.S. reportedly hasn't agreed to sign onto the fund, making it much more difficult to finalize during the Durban talks.