Madagascar’s food crisis has been blamed on climate change. Scientists say that’s wrong

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Persistent low rainfall has led to a prolonged drought that has shaken Madagascar’s food security and has already pushed thousands of people into famine-like situations.

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A study by scientists from the World Weather Attribution Initiative, an international collaboration led by Imperial College London and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, found that the main reason for the drought was natural variation in climate.

The group said poverty, poor infrastructure and a high level of dependence on rain for agriculture were also behind the country’s food crisis.

Madagascar received only about 60% of the normal average rainfall for two consecutive years, the lowest in 30 years. Drought has caused widespread crop failure in the south of the country, and around 1.3 million people across the country need food aid, according to the world food program (WFP).

Scientists said they cannot completely rule out climate change as contributing to the reduced rainfall, but its role, if any, was small enough that it did not detract from the country’s historical climate patterns.

“Instead, the study finds that vulnerability to low rainfall is the main factor behind the food crisis,” the study states. “Covid restrictions to limit public health impacts also prevented people moving elsewhere in the country to find work, as many have done at other times.”

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The WFP, responding to the study, said the food crisis was the result of a combination of above-average temperatures, low rainfall, crop failure and other vulnerabilities in communities dependent on subsistence agriculture, worsened by the economic impact of COVID-19.

“The WWA study does not attribute the 2019/2020 droughts solely to human-induced climate change. But it does acknowledge that global warming exacerbates vulnerabilities,” the organization said in a statement.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change report published in August found that Madagascar was projected to see an increase in drought if global warming exceeded 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. It is also predicted to experience higher intensity of tropical cyclones.

The world has already experienced an increase in average temperature of around 1.2 °C.

The WFP wrote that it is “concerned that the food crisis in Madagascar and other countries will continue if we do not mitigate the climate crisis and enable vulnerable people to adapt and build their resilience.”

Madagascar is facing a food crisis amid years of severe drought.

Several media organizations, including Granthshala, had reported on WFP’s characterization of a food crisis driven by the climate crisis.

WWA scientists studied the heavy impact in the country’s southwest, analyzing weather records, climate projections and computer simulations to compare the region’s current and past climate conditions.

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The study found that there has been a significant change in the rainfall patterns in the region naturally. In today’s climate, Madagascar has a 1-in-135 chance of such a drought in any given year, it has been shown.

Nonetheless, Madagascar remains vulnerable to the climate crisis, driven primarily by human use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, the effects of extreme weather, including drought, are likely to increase in the country.

“If global temperatures rise further, Madagascar is likely to suffer from stronger tropical cyclones and possibly more droughts,” said Lisa Thalheimer, a postdoctoral research associate in the Center for Policy Research on Energy and Environment at Princeton University. took part in the study.

“Unless carbon emissions are reduced globally, any increase in extreme weather events will exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and harm especially the poorest, making it more difficult for them to cope with the complex setbacks as We’re just watching.”

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And while the climate crisis may not have played a significant role in this drought, Other analyzes have shown that this has been a major driver. California and . in places like low rainfall and drought parts of the Middle East.
Other scientists involved in the study said the take-home message was to intensify efforts to adapt to extreme weather events, which are only expected to become more frequent and more devastating as the world warms.

“What we are seeing with this phenomenon in Madagascar shows that in many respects we are not even prepared for today’s climate,” said Marten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center.

“It is important to address the vulnerability in the area and improve the living conditions of the population.”


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