Tag Archives: food insecurity

Warm Winter? But it Felt So Cold!

Here, that is – where I live.

It turns out that last month was the fourth hottest March for the entire planet on record, according to NASA. In fact, it’s been 29 years – 349 consecutive months, to be precise – since we’ve seen a month that was actually cooler than the historical average. And it also turns out that the changing weather is making a lot of people very hungry.

The data is now in, and for the whole world, our frigid March – shivering in the path of a wobbly “polar vortex” – was actually 1.2°F hotter than the average global temperature for the last 30 years. A look at the global temperature map tells a remarkable story:

assets-climatecentral-org-images-uploads-news-3_19_14_Andrea_LandTempAnom2014Winter-500x386Notice how there are just two or three cool spots (in blue) on the planet. Midwest and Eastern North America were wicked cold, and some places in western Siberia and Uzbekistan were too. But now look at the rest of the world: all of South America, Africa, China, and Australia were warm (in red). And Europe, Alaska and eastern Siberia were downright hot, compared to the historical average.

A bad month perhaps? No such luck. The whole winter – freezing for us – was very warm for the Earth as a whole. It was cold here under the wobbly winter vortex, and warm just about everywhere else. In fact, the whole world was 1.57°F hotter than average.

Maybe all of last year was better? Well, you decide: It was the fourth hottest year on record according to NOAA. And three of the four hottest years have all occurred since the year 2000. And as we noted, it’s been almost three decades since we’ve seen one single month that was actually cooler than the 20th Century average.

The world is warming, and maybe it’s time to take note. The UN’s climate panel, which convenes the world’s climate scientists to issue an advisory report every 5-6 years, has warned that climate change will mean more hunger and rising food prices, falling hardest on the hungry poor.

And almost on cue, our food prices shot up last month, largely because of persistent drought in the West and extreme weather in the Midwest. Wholesale beef prices increased 23% over last year, and pork soared by an amazing 56%. Globally, food prices increased 2.4% in March, and they’re more than double what they averaged in 2002-2004. If you spend most of your income feeding your family – as the world’s poor do – this is a really big deal.

And maybe that’s why more and more Christians are beginning see global climate disruption as having a lot to do with their faith. The Christian Reformed Church has passed a call to action to confront climate change, which they call a core gospel issue.  “Climate change,” they say, “poses a significant threat to future generations, the poor, and the vulnerable.”

In this, the CRC has followed in the footsteps of the 190-nation Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization, which in 2012 issued a comprehensive call to action for climate justice. “The world is in crisis,” they said, “brought on by global climate change, deforestation, pollution, loss of species to extinction and water stress. These threats place a heavy burden on the poor….”

Meanwhile, here at Good Hand Farm, we’re still wrapped in extra sweaters, as we watch in vain for our first asparagus and pea shoots to push through the frigid ground. But around the world, it’s unusually hot, food’s getting scarcer, and unless ordinary people take action, it’s hard to see how hunger won’t keep getting worse.

Climate Change and the 21st Century Famine

… I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat …

In recent months, a group in my church has been seriously asking the question: What if Jesus really meant the things he said?

We’re not particularly new at this. Christians in all ages have struggled with the hard sayings of Jesus, especially when we measure our conduct against his standards. But one teaching comes back to me again and again like a persistent nightmare: “The King will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat …’” Matthew 25:41-42.

If you’re like me, this warning of divine justice gnaws at you most when you’ve looked away from a homeless person on the sidewalk, or ignored one of those TV appeals from a children’s aid agency. But let’s assume that Jesus was not just trying to make us feel guilty; maybe he was revealing to us the heart of God when it comes to cosmic justice. Here were his priorities: thirsty people receive clean water; strangers and immigrants are welcomed; those exposed to the elements are wrapped in warm clothes; medical care is provided to the sick; and prisoners are looked after.

But before he mentioned any of those priorities, Jesus first addressed food insecurity. “I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat.” If Jesus meant anything at all by the order of his judgments, we must see feeding the hungry a matter of paramount importance to our faith.

And if that’s even remotely true, then Christians should pay close attention to a new report from the UN’s climate agency, warning of severe global hunger in the coming decades. Early last month a draft report, drawn up by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was leaked to the public. It’s the second of three reports, following the first that came out this September. The leaked IPCC draft report outlines the threats climate change poses to the global food supply, predicting a decrease of up to 2% each decade in yields of staple crops like corn, wheat, and rice. That projected decline is all the more alarming when we consider the parallel 14% increase per decade in the demand for food that scientists are expecting. And it puts to rest hopes that once flickered in the minds of some researchers and many “climate skeptics” that hotter weather and higher carbon levels might actually increase photosynthesis and food production.

Famine Memorial, Dublin, Ireland

Famine Memorial, Dublin, Ireland

You got the numbers, right? Manmade climate change could depress global yields of staple foods by 2% per decade, at the same time that demand for food grows by 14% per decade. If you do the arithmetic, you’ll find that in four decades, there would be half as much food supplied as food demanded, on average, all over the whole world, absent other major changes in agriculture.

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