The Earth is clearly warming. Mounting evidence from around the globe has removed virtually any serious doubt over this fact, and also over whether the main culprit is human emissions of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2). These emissions have been the product of a march towards better economic living standards, and for much of the world this march has led people out of a life of hunger and poverty and into one of relative comfort and security. But many have been left behind, and roughly 1 billion people continue to live under poverty and with insecure access to food. In an average day, more than 20,000 children die from hunger related causes.
A large majority of the world's poor continue to live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Given that agriculture everywhere remains dependent on weather, changes in climate have the potential to disproportionally affect these poor populations. But what, precisely, will human-induced climate changes mean for the globe's billion poor? How will climate change interact with the many other factors that affect the future of food production and food security?
There are no easy answers to these questions. That fact, of course, does not stop people from making simple predictions based on ideology, such as that innovation and free market responses will avoid any damages, or that climate change will wreak havoc on humans. Theory alone cannot refute either of these extreme positions, as there are no obvious reasons why that the pace of climate change caused by human activity should or should not match the pace with which we are able to adapt food production systems. Rather, the issue at hand is an empirical one, and finding answers will require a cadre of scientists capable of collecting and analyzing the relevant data, and policy makers and citizens capable of understanding their implications.
This book aims to foster these capabilities in students, researchers, and policymakers in the field, by providing an accessible introduction into the fundamental
D. Lobell (H) and M. Burke Stanford University, CA, USA
D. Lobell and M. Burke (eds.), Climate Change and Food Security, Advances in Global Change Research 37, DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-2953-9_1, © Springer Science + Business Media, B.V. 2010
science needed to address the potential effects of climate change on food security. To accomplish this, our approach in the book has five main features that we feel distinguish it from other texts on this subject.
The first is the style of presentation: we offer non-technical descriptions of the fundamental data and science underlying models of agricultural impacts, descriptions that should be comprehensible without prior knowledge of the subject. We hope this will prove useful not only for students, but also for inter-disciplinary researchers and policy makers who wish to understand in more detail the output from models in disciplines with which they commonly interact. Accordingly, we have not attempted an exhaustive review of recent applications in any of the chapters - results that in any case are likely to change quickly - but rather present enough examples to explain important concepts.
The second feature is a focus on the full suite of interactions between climate change and food security, which moves beyond the traditional narrower focus on the potential climate effects on the production of a few cereal crops. Although the main cereal crops (rice, wheat, maize) do contribute the majority of calories consumed globally, in many parts of the developing world they play a more minor role, warranting increased attention to the myriad other crops of importance to the poor. Furthermore, the majority of poor households are both producers and consumers of agricultural commodities, suggesting that a narrow focus on production might miss the effects of climate change on other important aspects of food security, such as incomes and health.
A third related feature of the book is our focus on the inherent uncertainties associated with any assessment of the effects of climate on food security, uncertainties that are often not clearly quantified elsewhere in the literature. In each chapter we focus on the types of uncertainties that exist and the ways that researchers attempt to measure them. We feel this reflects a broader trend in the community to move away from simple "best guess" estimates and provide a more probabilistic view of the future.
The fourth feature of the book is an embrace of the diversity of approaches and perspectives necessary for a complete assessment of the linkages between climate and food security. Because a complete assessment requires the integration of tools from often diverse fields, the book presents a broad range of perspectives from various experts. Thus, for example, the presentation does not focus on a single approach to estimating crop responses to climate change but covers the strengths and weaknesses of the various methods employed by researchers on this particular topic.
Finally, the book discusses extensively the adaptation options available to agriculture in order to cope with climate change over the next few decades. This contrasts with many studies that have focused instead on the longer time frame of 2080 or 2100. In our opinion, this choice reflects a broader trend in the global change community to focus not only on questions of mitigation (i.e. whether and how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) but increasingly also on how to adapt to the changes we can expect regardless of emissions reductions.
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Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.