Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Discusses Link Between Climate Change and Global Food Security at Copenhagen Climate Change Talks | USDA Newsroom
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News Release

Release No. 0609.09
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 10, 2009 - Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke to a packed house of 300 attendees at the "Food Security and Climate Change: Unifying Commitment and Action" at the climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"There is an important link between global climate change and food insecurity, both daunting challenges that will require shared vision and efforts if we are to make progress in addressing them, said Vilsack.

Recent estimates from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization suggest that for the first time ever, more than 1 billion people around the world are chronically hungry. Global food demand is expected to grow by more than 50% between 2005 and 2030. And as the world population expands towards 9 billion it will be even more difficult to supply enough food. This expanded population will lead to competition for natural resources, environmental degradation and, potentially, the increased release of green house gasses.

Agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate variability, and climate change - higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and more frequent extreme events like droughts and flooding --threatens to reduce yields and increase the occurrence of crop failure.

Climatic stresses could have real consequences on food production, dramatically affecting the yields of staple food crops, resulting in scarcity and threatening people's livelihoods particularly in developing countries. A study by the International Food Policy Research Institute showed that rice and wheat yields in developing nations could decrease as much as 19% and 34% respectively by 2050 due to the effects of climate change. The same study showed that, as a consequence, child malnutrition rates are expected to rise 20% worldwide in the next 40 years compared to a situation with no climate change.

"We are working to take action to address the impacts of climate change and have made a long-term commitment to eliminating food insecurity," said Vilsack. "If we can now put our global commitments into action at the national, village and farm level, we are confident we will succeed in making agriculture an important tool in eliminating the devastation caused by hunger and in combating global climate change."

In the last year there has been a renewed international interest in agricultural development from partners across the globe. Nations of the world have begun to agree that the past practice of relying on food aid has not solved the problem. At the G-8 Summit, leaders responded to this international consensus by committing to increase international assistance for agricultural development to $20 billion over the next three years. President Obama and the U.S. committed to providing at least $3.5 billion over that period.

They event was hosted by the Danish Government, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Speakers included Ms. Eva Kjer Hansen, Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries; Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO; Gilberto Camara, Director of the National Space Institute in Brazil; and Ajay Vashee< President of IFAP.


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