Mouths > Meals

Punjabi folk drumming

Farmers are getting whacked by climate change everywhere. For example, in Northern India and Pakistan, we’re looking at a wheat harvest that might be going down by 20 percent or more. That’s a lot of mouths to not feed.

Punjabi folk drumming with winds

Based on current climate-change models, wheat output in northern India and Pakistan will fall between 17 percent and 38 percent by 2020 because of heat stress to the crop, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center estimates. The center is working to develop heat-tolerant wheat for South Asia.
The majority of agricultural research is focused on wheat, corn and rice, all crops which have “profound problems” in a world that’s 3 or 4 degrees Celsius warmer, according to Kyte.
“We need to increase the amount of research that goes into food crops that the poor actually eat,” Kyte said.
Climate change reduced wheat yields from 1980 to 2008, with world production of the grain in the period 5.5 percent lower than it would have been without any change in temperatures and rainfall, U.S. researchers wrote in a 2011 study published in the journal Science.
Heat waves and extreme rainfall in the past decade are probably linked to global warming, according to a 2012 study from the Potsdam climate institute.


Imdad Hussain Maachi singing Punjabi vernacular music

Naturally, this burden is going to fall most heavily on the poor, who serve as a buffer between the impacts of climate change and the world’s richest — an analogy in the human domain of wetlands’ role in protecting inhabited areas from the shock of extreme storms and flooding. Whatever happens, poor people are going to die sooner, faster, and in the greatest numbers. There are deep ethical questions connected with this; as the world heads toward a population of 8 billion, population control is as essential as it is unattainable.

Feed people — keep them from starving — and they’ll make more people who will eventually starve. In the long run, of course, the rich will have only a few more years than the middle class, who in turn will only briefly outlast the poor. Ultimately, it’s the farmer feeds us all, and with a rapidly transforming climate sharply impacting grain yields, there’s not going to be enough.

Education in family planning is essential:

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