Global carbon tax could heighten world hunger by 2050

A worldwide carbon tax could lead to far more hunger and food insecurity by 2050 than otherwise would have occurred as a result of climate change, a first-of-its-kind study has found.


It shows that inflated food prices caused by a carbon tax on agriculture could leave up to 170 million more people at risk of hunger, with those in India and sub-Saharan Africa among the most vulnerable.

That is far more than the 50 million that climate change could put at risk, with the researchers warning that mitigation policies must consider more than just reducing emissions.

Study lead author and researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Tomoko Hasegawa, said the findings also suggest that the agriculture sector should receive special treatment.

“Carbon pricing schemes will not bring any viable options for developing countries where there are highly vulnerable populations,” she continued. “Mitigation in agriculture should instead be integrated with development policies.” 

The researchers stressed that their results should not be used to argue against greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts, but show the importance of smart, targeted policy design.

They suggest that schemes encourage more productive and resilient agricultural systems, simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions, cutting poverty and boosting economic growth and food security.

Another suggestion is complementary policies to counteract the impact of mitigation on vulnerable regions, such as using the money from carbon taxes for food aid programs.

The research shows that, without careful planning, the burden of mitigation policies is “simply too great”, and that any type carbon tax or a comprehensive emission trading system on agriculture would raise the cost of food production.

“As agriculture is more and more directly associated with the discussion on global mitigation efforts, we hope the paper will show that differentiated solutions need to be found for this sector,” study co-author, Hugo Valin, said.

“As countries are all working at defining emission reduction pathways within the context of the Paris Agreement, it serves as a warning that other development objectives should be kept in mind to choose the right path towards sustainability.” 


Image credit: Shutterstock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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