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A boy tends to a herd of cows in Cameroon

A boy tends to cows in sub-Saharan Africa, which stands to be hit hard by the effects of drastic greenhouse-gas cuts on food production. Credit: Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty

Society

Hunger’s toll looks set to grow with tough action on climate change

Carbon taxes and related policies could lead to worse food shortages than climate change alone.

Strict policies to curb the effects of climate change could leave millions more people hungry than would a warming climate itself.

Scientists predict that climate change will cut crop yields, which will, in turn, raise food prices. Tough policies such as carbon taxes that aim to lower greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to help to address these problems.

To test this theory, Tomoko Hasegawa at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Japan, and her colleagues simulated global conditions in the year 2050. They found that under strict regulations, drops in food production and availability were due largely to the effects of the policies — not to climate change.

In one scenario, climate change alone would result in an extra 24 million people going hungry in 2050, compared with the number expected if today’s climate prevailed. When rigid policies were added, the number of hungry people jumped by a further 78 million, most of them in Africa and South Asia.

The authors say officials should consider the consequences for food availability when setting climate policies.

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