An international team of scientists has determined that the main drivers of the current food crisis are poverty, COVID-19 and vulnerability.
Southern Madagascar is currently experiencing severe drought after two years of below-average rainfall. This has caused crop failures and a humanitarian emergency that has affected more than one million people. Tens of thousands are now facing famine-like conditions.
Scientists at the World Weather Attribution (WWA)A global collaboration of climate scientists, whose mission is to assess the role climate change plays in extreme weather events and the immediate aftermath, has calculated the effect of human-caused changes in climate on the low levels rainfall in the region.
To do so, they analysed weather records and climate model simulations to compare the climate as it is today, after about 1.2°C of global warming since the late 1800s, with the climate of the past. “The study was published in the journal “Attribution of severe low rainfall in southern Madagascar, 2019-21“They conclude that climate change played a minimal part in the current drought.
Climate change is one threat multiplier, but it’s not the only one. It was the combination of natural rainfall variability, vulnerability of the population, COVID-19 and COVID-19 that led to this particular drought. Dr Friederike Otto Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at Grantham Institute
“While global heating may have made a small contribution in the lack of rain over the last two-years, we cannot separate that signal from the high natural variability climate in that region.” Dr Friederike (Fredi) OttoHead of WWA. recently joined the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the EnvironmentAs Senior Lecturer in Climate Science
Research shows that the main reason for the food crisis is vulnerability to low rainfall levels. “Climate changes are a threat multiplier, however, it is not the only one.” Dr Otto says that the drought was more due to natural rain variability, vulnerability of the population, COVID-19 and COVID-19.
Madagascar is one the poorest countries in the world. More than 90% of people live below the poverty line in the southern part of the country. It is difficult for communities to deal with prolonged droughts, especially when they rely on rain-fed agriculture. COVID-19 restrictions have also prevented people from the region from moving elsewhere in the country in search of work in the past two years.
Improved resilience to extreme weather
To prevent future food crises, poverty must be addressed. Dr Otto warns that even minor changes in climate patterns could prove to be “absolutely devastating” for Madagascar.
What we are seeing with this event in Madagascar shows that, in many cases, we are not even prepared for today’s climate. Maarten van Aalst Director, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre
Maarten van Aalst is Director of Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. He also co-authored the study. This study highlights the need to increase resilience to extreme weather events in Southern Madagascar. He says that prolonged droughts and flooding can have devastating effects on people who live on low incomes and rely on their year-to-year crops. “What we are seeing with this event in Madagascar shows that, in many cases, we are not even prepared for today’s climate. It is critical to address the vulnerability in the region, and improve the living standards of the people.