Entering Uncharted Waters: El Nino and the threat to food security

Publication date

01 Oct 2015

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Millions of poor people in Southern Africa, Asia and Central America face hunger and poverty this year and next because of droughts and erratic rains as global temperatures reach new records, and because of the onset of a powerful El Nino - the climate phenomenon that develops in the tropical Pacific and brings extreme weather to several regions of the world. The combination of record warmth one year followed by an El Nino the next is unique and the climatic implications are uncertain. If 2016 follows a similar pattern, we are entering uncharted waters.

Recently leaders adopted an historic new goal of eradicating hunger by 2030, as part of the new Sustainable Development Goals. This unfolding crisis shows the scale of the threat that climate change poses to its realization. Governments and agencies must scale up emergency preparedness measures to prevent what are still manageable food crises developing into major humanitarian disasters. December's UN climate talks in Paris will be a crucial opportunity to strike an agreement that delivers for the women, men and children on the frontlines of climate change.

This briefing has been updated to reflect revised information from the Government of Ethiopia, as well as new figures from Papua New Guinea and the increasing risks from El Nino faced by Pacific island communities.