Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

ENVIRONMENT: Global warming will hit agriculture in tropics, studies show

POHNPEI, Palikir (FSM Information Service): November 9, 2001 - Harvests of some of the world's most important food crops could fall by as much as a third in the tropics as a result of climate change, scientists are warning.

New studies indicate that for every one degree C rise in areas such as the tropics, yields could tumble by as much as 10 per cent. The findings on staple food crops have come from researchers at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in Manila, Philippines.

Meanwhile, a second group have found that key cash crops such as coffee and tea in some of the major growing regions will also be vulnerable over the coming decades to global warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the team of scientists that advise governments, estimate that average, global, temperatures in the tropics could climb by as much as three degrees C by 2100.

Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said: "These new findings indicate that large numbers are facing acute hunger and malnutrition unless the world acts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases".

Speaking at the latest round of climate change negotiations taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, he added: "A similar threat to cash crops is also emerging. Poor farmers here face declining yields and incomes in the traditional coffee and tea growing areas pushing them into even more biting poverty.

"Just to survive, they will be forced to clear forests in higher, cooler, areas. This can only add to environmental damage which in turn can lead to increased poverty, hunger and ill-health.

"I would urge governments and delegates at this week's 7th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to remember the billions of people living at or near the poverty line whose lives face ruin as a result of global warming."

Mr Töpfer said such impacts could be even more devastating to livelihoods if the current decline in coffee and tea commodity prices continues over the coming decades.

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