Monday, May 26, 2014

Antarctic Ice Collapse Could Devastate Global Food Supply

Farmland in Bangladesh is at risk of sea level rise, the food security report warns. (Credit: Alamy via The Guardian) Click to enlarge.
The ongoing collapse of a large part of the Antarctica ice sheet could devastate global food supply, drowning vast areas of crop lands across the Middle East and Asia, according to new research.

The report, Advancing Global Food Supply in the Face of a Changing Climate (pdf), urges the Obama Administration to step up research funding – especially in developing countries – to help make up a projected gap in future food supply.

It also warns America's Corn Belt could face yield declines of more than 25 percent by mid-century - unless there are new advances in agriculture to compensate for hotter temperatures, changing rainfall and more aggressive weeds and pests under climate change.

The report, due to be released at a high-level conference in Washington, DC on Thursday, is the first to factor in the effects of the slow-motion collapse of the Western Antarctica ice sheet on future food security.

Two independent studies last week warned the retreat of the Western Antarctica ice sheet was unstoppable – and could lead to sea-level rise of up to 4 meters (13 feet) over the coming centuries.

Those rising seas would displace millions of people from low-lying coastal areas - and wipe out rice-growing areas across Asia, Gerald Nelson, a University of Illinois economist and author of Thurday's report, said.

"That sea-level rise would take out half of Bangladesh and mostly wipe out productive rice regions in Vietnam," Nelson told The Guardian.  "It would have a major effect on Egyptian agricultural areas."

The projected levels of sea-level rise, due to the retreat of ice in West Antarctica, pose a far greater threat to future food supply even than that envisaged in the United Nations' IPCC report in March, Nelson said.

"A sea level rise of 3 meters (10 feet) over the next 100 years is much more likely than the IPCC thought possible," the report said.

Antarctic Ice Collapse Could Devastate Global Food Supply

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