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Scientists warn bulging population could spawn world starvation

Scientists warn bulging population could spawn world starvation thumbnail

As Earth Day celebrations are happening everywhere today, scientists are contemplating how to increase already declining food supplies by 60 percent in order to meet the needs of a massive global population expected in 2050.

On Friday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported drought-related crop losses in 2012 across the US were the worst since the 1950’s, with Texas being one of the hardest hit states.

Research shows that droughts gripped two-thirds of the nation, while other parts of the country experienced mega-flooding and record breaking rainfall.

The upshot is that crops won’t do well in dry, rock-hard soil or in fields covered in a foot of water.

Corn is a crop that is widely used as a direct food product, as an ingredient in many other food staples, for livestock-feed and for ethanol fuel. The USDA reported that 2012 had a 27 percent crop in estimated bushels for the year.

Starvation and human misery have been going on in other parts of the world as a result of climate change related to droughts and water shortages for several decades already, with Africa being particularly devastated.

Experts say declining agricultural yields, combined with a global population that is estimated to exceed 9 billion in the next few decades, will cause food prices to more than double by 2050. The crisis could cause massive human migration in search of food and water, while millions of people could die of starvation.

Frank Rijsberman, head of the world’s consortium of crop research centers, was quoted as saying this about the dire situation:

Food production will have to rise 60% by 2050 just to keep pace with expected global population increase and changing demand. Climate change comes on top of that. The annual production gains we have come to expect … will be taken away by climate change. We are not so worried about the total amount of food produced so much as the vulnerability of the one billion people who are without food already and who will be hit hardest by climate change. They have no capacity to adapt.

The US National Climate Assessment report includes the research of 60 scientists and it predicts that agriculture, livestock, crops and fruit harvests will be negatively impacted by temperature variances, droughts and water shortages across many US regions.

A warming and wetter global environment will also lead to more weeds, diseases and pests that will cause expensive herbicides to be less effective.

As reported in The Guardian, lead scientist Jerry Hatfield, director for the US national laboratory for agriculture and the environment confirmed that anomalous climate patterns are already taking their toll with “very hot nights, fewer cool days, more heat waves, mega-storms and flooding.”

In addition, the report details catastrophic harvest around the world in recent years, including Russia, Ukraine, Canada and Australia, with Asian nations also suffering crop losses. Wheat harvests dropped 33 percent in Russia, 19 percent in the Ukraine, 14 percent in Canada and 9 percent in Australia.

United Nations World Food Programme director, Erthan Cousin said this: “We are entering an uncertain and risky period. Climate change is the game changer that increases exposure to high and volatile food prices and increases the vulnerability of the hungry poor, especially those living in conflict zones or areas of marginal agricultural productivity. We must act quickly to protect the world’s poorest people.”

Food experts are gathering for two major conferences to contemplate and study solutions on how to feed the 9 billion people expected to be alive in 2050, with the poor being most adversely affected.

Related report:

Earth Day 2013: Has environmental activism made a difference in 43 years?

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Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director, Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for keystone-prairie-dogs.com, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.

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11 Comments on "Scientists warn bulging population could spawn world starvation"

  1. DC on Mon, 22nd Apr 2013 11:15 pm 

    Think about it, whats easier. Grow the population by say, 25%, or w/e, or expanding agriculture by 25%? One is really..really easy to do, so easy any idiot can do it. The other, is not.

  2. kiwichick on Tue, 23rd Apr 2013 1:16 am 

    limits to growth anyone?

  3. dashster on Tue, 23rd Apr 2013 1:24 am 

    It bears repeating: these fellows are in a tiny minority of opinion. With regard to population growth – Republicans, Democrats, Atheists, Religious, poor, rich, young old, Peak Oilers, Cornucopians, Environmentalists, Tree-Hugger Haters – all agree that population growth is not something that needs to be dealt with.

  4. dashster on Tue, 23rd Apr 2013 1:30 am 

    It bears repeating: these fellows are in a tiny minority of opinion. With regard to population growth – Republicans, Democrats, Atheists, Religious, poor, rich, young, old, Peak Oilers, Cornucopians, Environmentalists, Tree-Hugger Haters – all agree that population growth is not something that needs to be dealt with.

  5. SilentRunning on Tue, 23rd Apr 2013 2:24 am 

    Anybody who thinks that exponential population growth is NOT a problem that we need to deal with: I will convert to your position if you just send me 1 penny on day 1, 2 pennies on day 2, 4 pennies on day 3, etc. Do that for just 64 days, doubling the number of pennies each day and I will agree with you wholeheartedly that there is absolutely no problem with exponential population growth on a finite planet. I’ll cheer the power of cornucopian thinking and endless resources that come from economics and human ingenuity!!

    ( Of course, should you *fail* to come up with a sufficient number of pennies, then you should – by all fairness – come over to my side and admit that exponential growth is a real and serious problem on a finite physical planet with hard limits to growth.)

  6. GregT on Tue, 23rd Apr 2013 2:44 am 

    SilentRunning,

    If you understand the exponential function, which it appears that you do, then you must also understand, that by the time we figure out that we have a problem, it is already too late.

    Now would be a very smart time to get as far away from large population centres as possible, and learn how to take care of yourself.

  7. Simon on Tue, 23rd Apr 2013 3:13 am 

    SilentRunning – we don’t have exponential population growth. It has slowed to such an extent that we expect it to peak at around 9 billion and then start to decline. The rest of the world is becoming more and more like the average European country whose birth rate is below the replacement rate.

    Of course this is too little too late, but it ain’t exponential!

  8. BillT on Tue, 23rd Apr 2013 4:26 am 

    Simon, you can thank Mother Nature for the fact that even exponential growth is limited. The next decade or so is going to be terrible to behold. Most nation are still growing their populations. Keep in mind that the West is only about 1/6 of the world’s population. That could all die away and it would be replaced plus more by the other 5/6.

    Pestilence, Famine, Disease, and War will cut the population back quickly and well before 2050.

  9. DC on Tue, 23rd Apr 2013 4:40 am 

    There is absolutely nothing to suggest the population will magically stop @ 9 billion, then of its own accord, begin to decline. That would be the first time in recorded history and before, if that were to happen, so it wont. The human population will only stop growing when it is physically impossible for it grow any more. Now you can debate where that point will be, what is not up for debate, is that it will stop growing voluntarily.

    If we can figure out how to sustain 10, 12 or 15 billion, even if its in absolute misery before it becomes impossible to keep doing so, thats where it will stop-not before. If things break down long before that point, well so be it. I never would have though when I was younger India and China would be bulging with the masses they have now, yet they are doing it-and adding more all the time. Not China so much. Think India everywhere on Earth before we throw in the towel and that is what the future holds. Not working on our community y garden plots in our solar powered eco-villages.

    Sorry Simon.

  10. GregT on Tue, 23rd Apr 2013 5:18 am 

    Simon,

    You obviously do not understand the exponential function, and you really should stop listening to everything that you read in the media. Even if the population is only growing at .1% per year, it is still growing exponentially.

    “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”
    Albert Bartlett, Emeritus, Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    “The Most Important Video You’ll Ever See” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umFnrvcS6AQ

  11. Kenz300 on Tue, 23rd Apr 2013 12:15 pm 

    Worst Environmental Problem? Overpopulation, Experts Say

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090418075752.htm

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