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Global food supply at severe risk from climate change, warns leaked study by UN-created panel

Global food supply at severe risk from climate change, warns leaked study by UN-created panel

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A scientific panel set up by the United Nations has found that climate change will pose a serious threat to the world's food supply in the coming decades, reports The New York Times. The findings aren't set to be announced until March and are still undergoing editing, but a copy of the report has leaked online. The findings come from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has been releasing reports on the matter around every six years — the Times reports that its 2007 findings were far less foreboding.

Agricultural output could drop two percent each decade

According to the Times, the report says that agricultural output may drop by as much as two percent every decade for the rest of this century, compared to what it would have been without the effects of climate change. Demand for food is reportedly expected to rise 14 percent each decade during that time, exacerbating the food supply issue.

The IPCC's study reportedly also finds that the impact of climate change is already being felt worldwide, and that it'll likely intensify as greenhouse gas emissions rise. Evoking scenes from a disaster film, the Times reports that the IPCC's draft warns that many plant and animal species could go extinct as temperatures and sea levels rise. It may not be too late to mitigate the effects, however, by cutting emissions. The study reportedly finds that some of the strongest impacts can still be avoided, though the signs of improvement likely wouldn't be felt until later the century.

"[The report is] a work in progress," Jonathan Lynn, a spokesman for the IPCC, tells the Times. "We don't have anything to say about the contents. It’s likely to change."

The IPCC's reports continue to leak

The IPCC has dealt with this kind of leak before, leading to the panel facing sharp criticism of its findings even before their release. Most recently, the panel found that humans were the cause of climate change, a factor that clearly plays heavily in its upcoming report. Though much could still change before its proper release, the Times notes that when another climate change report leaked in August, very little was changed before its publication in September.

Efforts are already being taken to address climate change from high in the US government, with President Obama issuing an executive order early today that will have government agencies preparing for its effects. For now, such efforts still fall far from what the IPCC's findings suggest is necessary.