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Major challenges to food production – climate change

There are numerous factors that challenge food production. The climate, topography and soil variations within biomes may be challenging for growing food, but the way people change the environment can also have an impact on food production.

This activity focuses on the impact of climate change on food production and food security.

Research shows changing and unpredictable weather conditions are altering the seasons and bringing change to biomes. For example, in Sudan droughts and extreme floods are becoming more common and farmers have to cope with crop losses, and adapt to these changes where they can.

In some countries, because the weather has become so volatile and extreme, people have to gain new understandings of the weather, adapt their farming techniques, and learn disaster management strategies to reduce the risk of people and communities going hungry.

1: Who does climate change hit first?

2: Mind the gap

3: Faces of climate change

4: Extension activity

1: Who does climate change hit first?

A scatter graph is a diagram that compares two sets of data. Study the below scatter graph, which shows countries at risk of climate change and the impact that climate change has on food security.

(If the graph shows up too small on your screen, click here and head to page 5 of Oxfam’s report. There’s a nice big detailed one there.)

Source: Oxfam International Documents 

  1. How is climate change expected to impact on food availability for the people in most developed countries?
  2. Which countries are most vulnerable to climate change affecting food security?
  3. Three cases of countries located in close global proximity to each other are highlighted on this graph. Read the text in the document on page 5 Bucking the trend. In a paragraph summarise the differences between each pair of countries.
  4. Where do you think developed countries – like Australia – would be located on this graph? Justify your decision.

2: Mind the Gap

Study the below Mind the Gap graphic which summarises the implications of climate change on food production.

Figure 2:  Mind the Gap

Source: Oxfam International Blogs

Ten key factors that impact on what people eat are outlined in this infographic.

a) Complete a diamond ranking activity like the one above to show the most significant nine factors, using this template.

  1. The diamond ranking helps you to prioritise your ideas. You will need to discard one of the ten factors – you can do this at the start or as you develop your ranking.
  2. In the highest point of the diamond, place the idea that you think is the factor that most impacts on what people eat.
  3. Next choose the factor that should be at the bottom of the ranking – the factor that has the least impact on food availability.
  4. On the second line, place the next two most important factors. Continue in this manner until the diamond is complete.

b) Compare your diamond ranking with another person in your class. Revise your diamond ranking so that it reflects both your ideas – you may have to discuss and compromise to do this.

Now compare your revised diamond ranking with that of another pair of students. Are there any significant differences? Can you suggest why your diamond rankings might be different?

c) The title of this graphic “Mind the gap” suggests that food inequality exists. For each factor suggest at least one way of overcoming this food inequality. Present your ideas as an infographic, like the one above, using symbols and a minimum of words.

3: Faces of climate change

Go to this site and in the groups designated by your teacher watch the short film clip, or read the text provided, about one of these “faces” from a range of places – Ethiopia, Australia, Tuvalu in the Pacific, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Carteret Islands, Papua New Guinea.

Each group will need to report to the class in response to the following questions. Your teacher will discuss with you the final format of your report.

  1. Find where your country is located on a world map.
  2. What are the climate change issues for the people in this location?
  3. How are these people adapting to and managing these changes?
  4. Each film clip/report finishes with a challenging question. Take the challenge as a group and come up with some actions that can improve food security.
  5. When all the groups have presented their report write a summary response to the statement: “Climate change is impacting on farming practices across the world.”

4: Extension activity

Read the following about the impact of climate change on agriculture in Australia.

The IPCC’s final report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, released 31 March 2014 identifies food security in both poor countries and wealthier ones as being at risk, with the findings showing Australian agriculture as vulnerable to climate change.

 The report states that declining freshwater resources in many parts of Australia will particularly impact upon irrigation-dependent crops like rice and sugarcane. The effect of a three degree centigrade increase in temperatures would be a four per cent reduction in the value of the beef, sheep and wool sector. A temperature rise of as little as one degree centigrade by 2030 would see a projected decline in dairy output in all regions of Australia except Tasmania.

Oxfam Australia Climate Change specialist Dr Simon Bradshaw said climate change was already making it harder for millions around the world to feed their families and today’s report shows this is likely to get harder, both in Australia and overseas.

Source: Oxfam International Media

Using the Bureau of Meteorology’s State of the Climate Report 2014, complete the following exercise:

  1. Choose a region near where you live and using the summary page, research any evidence of climate change occurring in your region.
  2. Use the maps of temperature change, rainfall ranges, heatwaves and fire weather, and scroll down to the Australian map of climate scenarios.
  3. Use this information to suggest how these changes might impact on the sustainability of local farms.
  4. Find an image of a local farmer/group of farmers and using speech bubbles write their comments on climate change and its effect on food production.