where the experts come to talk

Cooking for the planet

The further rise in the Earth's temperature - and how it materialises - will severely impact on food. NATO Review asks experts what impact this will have on how countries plan security, how food and water supplies will evolve and the effect current policies will have.

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What are the possible results

of increased food insecurity?

I don’t think we’ve yet grasped

the scale and the urgency

of the issue of food security and how

it relates to water and climate change

and land scarcity and the conversion

of crop land to non-farm uses.

Every night at the dinner table there

are another 216,000 people to be fed.

And after a while that begins

to put pressure on resources.

It is, in a way, too late to solve it.

It’s solving itself, but it will

take another two billion people

before the population growth stops.

We are no longer in the situation

of the 70's or 80's,

where the population

was growing exponentially.

We have more than tripled the global

population since World War II.

From 2 billion to almost 7 billion.

We’re never going to double it again.

How important is population growth?

In the developing countries, the big

gap is in the family planning area.

There are over 200 million women

who want to plan their families

but who do not have

access to family planning services.

So we’re heading for 9 billion

and that is catastrophic.

Even without climate change,

even without global warming,

it’s very hard to see

where the last 2 billion get fed from.

We must treat land

as an extremely valuable resource

that you must not allow

to be diverted to other purposes.

Most developed countries

cannot feed themselves.

They import food. It’s cheaper.

We need to protect our food resources

but we don’t need to stop these

people from stealing potatoes.

What role will water play?

Land without water

it’s not really worth anything.

Half the world lives in countries

where water tables are falling,

and what this means is that in many

countries, including China and India,

we have created

food bubble economies,

because you can over-pump

and expand your food production.

But when the aquifer is depleted

pumping is reduced

to the rate of recharge.

These countries are pushing

against the limits of their supplies.

When they need more water for cities

they take it from agriculture,

and then they import grain

to offset that loss.

Water tables are falling

in so many countries so fast

that as they begin to hit bottom

it’s going to reverberate

throughout the market.

Food – or Fuel?

The massive diversion of grain

to the production of fuel for cars,

this past year, we harvested

over 400 million tons of grain.

Roughly 100 million tons

is going to ethanol distilleries.

Grain costs more than oil,

because if the price of oil goes up

it will pull more grain

into the energy economy and there

will be less in the food economy.

In effect, the 900 million

automobile owners in the world

are now competing

with the 2 billion poorest people

for the grain supply,

and the difference between them

is the difference between

an income of 30,000 dollars a year

and an income

of 3000 dollars a year.

It’s easy to see who’s going to win,

if governments do not intervene.

If we want to have a decent shot

at saving the Greenland ice sheet

we’ve got to cut carbon emissions

by 80 percent by 2020,

not by 2050, which is what

political leaders like to talk about.

So we don’t have a lot of time

to cut carbon emissions.

What are the possible results

of increased food insecurity?

I don’t think we’ve yet grasped

the scale and the urgency

of the issue of food security and how

it relates to water and climate change

and land scarcity and the conversion

of crop land to non-farm uses.

Every night at the dinner table there

are another 216,000 people to be fed.

And after a while that begins

to put pressure on resources.

It is, in a way, too late to solve it.

It’s solving itself, but it will

take another two billion people

before the population growth stops.

We are no longer in the situation

of the 70's or 80's,

where the population

was growing exponentially.

We have more than tripled the global

population since World War II.

From 2 billion to almost 7 billion.

We’re never going to double it again.

How important is population growth?

In the developing countries, the big

gap is in the family planning area.

There are over 200 million women

who want to plan their families

but who do not have

access to family planning services.

So we’re heading for 9 billion

and that is catastrophic.

Even without climate change,

even without global warming,

it’s very hard to see

where the last 2 billion get fed from.

We must treat land

as an extremely valuable resource

that you must not allow

to be diverted to other purposes.

Most developed countries

cannot feed themselves.

They import food. It’s cheaper.

We need to protect our food resources

but we don’t need to stop these

people from stealing potatoes.

What role will water play?

Land without water

it’s not really worth anything.

Half the world lives in countries

where water tables are falling,

and what this means is that in many

countries, including China and India,

we have created

food bubble economies,

because you can over-pump

and expand your food production.

But when the aquifer is depleted

pumping is reduced

to the rate of recharge.

These countries are pushing

against the limits of their supplies.

When they need more water for cities

they take it from agriculture,

and then they import grain

to offset that loss.

Water tables are falling

in so many countries so fast

that as they begin to hit bottom

it’s going to reverberate

throughout the market.

Food – or Fuel?

The massive diversion of grain

to the production of fuel for cars,

this past year, we harvested

over 400 million tons of grain.

Roughly 100 million tons

is going to ethanol distilleries.

Grain costs more than oil,

because if the price of oil goes up

it will pull more grain

into the energy economy and there

will be less in the food economy.

In effect, the 900 million

automobile owners in the world

are now competing

with the 2 billion poorest people

for the grain supply,

and the difference between them

is the difference between

an income of 30,000 dollars a year

and an income

of 3000 dollars a year.

It’s easy to see who’s going to win,

if governments do not intervene.

If we want to have a decent shot

at saving the Greenland ice sheet

we’ve got to cut carbon emissions

by 80 percent by 2020,

not by 2050, which is what

political leaders like to talk about.

So we don’t have a lot of time

to cut carbon emissions.

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quotes
Ahmad Shah Masood
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