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Climate Change Threatens Food Availability

Climate Change Threatens Food, Cultural Heritage And Natural Sites, UN Meeting Warned

New York, Nov 7 2006 4:00PM

Climate change will directly affect future food availability and compound the difficulties of feeding the world’s rapidly growing population, a United Nations conference in Kenya on the phenomenon has been warned.

At the time cultural and natural heritage sites – from Charles Darwin’s favourite barrier reef in Belize, Central America, and South Africa’s famous West Coast National Park to 600 year-old Thai ruins and archaeological sites in Scotland – are increasingly threatened by the effects of so-called global warning greenhouse gases, many of them man made.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative Castro Paulino Camarada told the UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi that greater attention must be given to the impact of climate change on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and on mitigation and adaptation measures.

With the right technologies, converting biomass such as wood and crop residues, grass, straw and brushwood into fuel could provide an abundant supply of clean, low-cost energy while helping spur economic development in rural communities, raise farmers' incomes and improve food security, according to FAO. Crops like sugarcane, corn and soybean are already being used to produce ethanol or bio-diesel.

In the field of forestry, FAO believes that better forest management can play a key role in global efforts to deal with climate change. When over-harvested and burned, forests become sources of the greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, forests and the wood they produce capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, playing a major role in mitigating climate change.

With regard to heritage sites, some of these priceless treasures are at risk as a result of rising sea levels, flooding and storms. Others, including mosques, cathedrals, monuments, and artefacts at ancient sites, are threatened by changes in climatic conditions, leading to subtle but damaging shifts in moisture levels affecting structures directly, or in the chemistry and stability of soils in which they stand.
These are among the findings from a new report released at the conference – The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the World’s Greatest Challenge – compiled by researchers with the Stockholm Environment Institute with assistance from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Adaptation to climate change should and must include natural and culturally important sites,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koichiro Matsuura stressed that climate changes are affecting all aspects of human and natural systems. “Protecting and ensuring the sustainable management of these sites has therefore become an intergovernmental priority of the highest order, he said.

Ends

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