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GLASGOW, Scotland — A major focus at this year's U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) has been the impact that global warming will have on agriculture and food production in the coming decades.
In his address on Monday, President Biden warned that climate change was already fueling "crop failures" in some regions in the world, and his agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, put the issue in even starker terms.
"The climate crisis threatens to disrupt food systems around the globe, exacerbate food insecurity and negatively impact farmers' livelihoods," Vilsack said.
En route to COP26, Vilsack and his European Union counterpart, Janusz Wojciechowski, announced a new transatlantic collaboration Wednesday to help ensure global food sustainability.
"Climate change is already affecting the livelihoods of our farmers in deep and profound ways, from extreme weather volatility to severe drought, to flooding, to wildfires and other catastrophic events that threaten our towns, cities and communities," Vilsack said of the agreement. "We must rise to the challenge."
Climate scientist Peter Gleick, an expert on how global warming is affecting the hydrologic cycle, told Yahoo News that "higher temperatures mean the demand for water is higher. The loss of water from our reservoirs evaporating off is higher. The demand for water from agricultural crops is greater."
The Environmental Protection Agency notes on its website that "greenhouse gases and climate change affect agricultural producers greatly because agriculture and fisheries depend on specific climate conditions. Temperature changes can cause habitat ranges and crop planting dates to shift, and droughts and floods due to climate change may hinder farming practices."
As climate change continues to affect the Earth's water cycle, it is being blamed for bringing southern Madagascar to the brink of famine, threatening the health of nearly 1 million people.
"I have seen people eating cactus leaves, insects, and surviving upon nothing, and the lack of water is probably the most striking element," Arduino Mangoni, deputy country director of the World Food Program in Madagascar, told ABC News.
A range of consequences from climate change are threatening agriculture worldwide, from widespread drought across the Western U.S. to the possible disruption of the mid-Atlantic current that could cause temperatures in Northern Europe to plunge, making it inhospitable for many crops.
Vilsack, however, said the U.S.'s partnership with the EU would seek to bolster agricultural resilience in the two regions.
“We believe that science and innovation will bring about a more sustainable agriculture. We must work together to devise systems and solutions that are good for agricultural producers, good for consumers, good for businesses, good for our communities and good for our planet," Vilsack said. "This includes fair and open markets at the local, regional and international levels that bolster food security and sustainable food systems."
On Monday, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said he would support the production of new kinds of seeds that could be more resilient to climate change, benefiting small farmers in places like Africa.
"We're announcing $315 million over the next three years for the seed consortium, which is called the CG System. That makes the seeds for all the different countries, and the big priority for that money will be seeds that can be even more productive despite the challenge of climate change," Gates said in an interview with Voice of America.
Gates said he was inspired to act after seeing firsthand that "in Africa, the farmers were often having a more difficult time. And so they're already facing these difficulties, which will get significantly worse between now and the end of the century."
Global temperatures are on the rise and have been for decades. Step inside the data and see the magnitude of climate change.
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