Hunger is a global crisis that is being exacerbated by climate change. Food insecurity, which is a result of rising temperatures and extreme weather events like droughts and floods, will prevail if solutions aren’t created to counter the impacts of climate change.
While some global regions can count on sufficient food resources over the coming years, others like Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are expecting failing crop yields leading to higher food prices and an increase in hunger.
Fortunately, according to Nature Climate Change, international trade could be the panacea to regional food shortages caused by climate change. In fact, it is particularly effective at compensating for food shortages when protectionist measures are dropped.
How Free Trade Reduces Regional Food Shortages
The global number of hungry people is currently 690 million. To make matters worse, this figure may rise to 840 million by 2030 even though the world produces enough food to feed 1.5 times the global population. This is due, in part, to the fact that not all global regions are equally capable of producing reliable crop yields to feed the local population, an issue worsened by climate change. A simple solution to this problem would be to share the food produced by areas where food sources are abundant with those suffering from high levels of food insecurity.
The problem with implementing this solution is that import tariffs act as major barriers to trading food internationally. Tariffs impose significant costs on the movement of food across borders and increase the price of importing basic food items such as wheat, corn, and rice into the countries that need them.
Trade agreements, therefore, are key to tackling the problem of hunger. Research has shown that the liberalization of the international market, which caused the average import tariffs placed on agricultural products in Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia to reduce by a third, increased food security in areas most impacted by climate change. Scientists also believe that this positive impact can be further augmented by dropping more tariffs. In short, free trade would significantly reduce food insecurity caused by climate change, lowering hunger rates across the world.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Protectionism
Unfortunately, due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to resources like food, many countries have chosen to adopt protectionist measures which limit the volume of goods leaving the country. Therefore, it is important now more than ever to prevent governments from adopting a protectionist stance, as data shows that this would exacerbate hunger caused by climate change-induced regional food insecurity.
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