Climate change: Hungry nations add the least to global CO2

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Burundi has contributed little to rising temperatures, but will be hit hard by some of the effects

The impoverished African nation of Burundi comes top of a list of the world's most food-insecure countries says Christian Aid.

The charity argues that Burundi and others are now keenly feeling the impacts of climate change on their food production systems.

But Burundi's contribution to rising temperatures is marginal, say experts.

In fact, the annual carbon emissions of one Briton is equal to the CO2 produced by over 200 Burundians.

Scientists and government officials from all over the world are meeting in Geneva this week to consider how climate change impacts the land and how the lands and forests impact the climate.

Their detailed report will be released on Thursday.

However, researchers at development charity Christian Aid have put together a study showing how that climate change is now having a disproportionate impact on the food systems of the countries that have done least to produce the carbon emissions that are driving up temperatures.

Their study says that the top 10 most food insecure countries all generate less than half a tonne of CO2 per person, and in total just 0.08% of global emissions.

As well as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Yemen and Sierra Leone make up the top five countries.

The rest of the top 10 includes Chad, Malawi, Haiti, Niger and Zambia.

Burundians produce 0.027 tonnes of CO2 per person per year. Someone living in Saudi Arabia produces the same as 718 people in Burundi. The equivalent number for the US would be 581 and for Russia 454.

The report's authors draw a clear link between rising global temperatures and increasing food security issues.

"Our research shows that rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are reducing the nutritional quality of the food we eat and that the most vulnerable people to these impacts are those least responsible for rising global CO2 concentrations," said Dr Samuel Myers, principal research scientist at Harvard University's department of environmental health.

"From this, and other research, what is quite clear is that climate change is not only a global health crisis, it is a moral crisis."

Other researchers say that the report on food insecurity is a warning for rich and poor alike, that climate change is having profound effects on our ability to feed the planet.

"These are warning signals that all of us ignore at our peril, for agriculture ultimately is one of the most threatened of our economic sectors and most fundamental for the healthy functioning of our societies and our communities," said Dr Doreen Stabinsky, professor of global environmental politics at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, US, who was not involved with the study.

"Both the Christian Aid report and the upcoming IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land begin to make clear how serious a threat this is, and how urgently we need to act."

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