Thursday, December 24, 2009

Funding for fighting climate change and world hunger

Fighting climate change is thought to be important because if we don't then some regions may produce less food and water in the future and more people will die from starvation and dehydration. No one wants starvation and dehydration to get worse.

Currently we spend about 3.7 billion dollars a year trying to feed the world through the UN World Food Programme. It was recently announced that the U.S. would commit to a climate change fighting plan which involves (eventually) contributing 100 billion dollars per year to dealing with the problem.

If the remaining industrialized world would commit proportionally similar funds then we would have about 300 billion dollars a year devoted to fighting climate change. This is close to 100 times the budget for the UN World Food Programme.

So we're spending 3.7 billion dollars to fight world hunger and dehydration and potentially 300 billion dollars to make sure that climate change doesn't make the problem worse!

I bet if a much smaller value than that 300 billion dollars per year (for climate change) were devoted to the World Food Programme then it could feed the world's 1.02 billion malnourished people - although it may need to spend that money efficiently. We know that global warming has already caused a 0.7 degree temperature increase over the last 100 years, these people who are starving and thirsty are probably already adversely affected by pre-existing global warming. If their region is already producing less food than it might otherwise have (due to the previous warming) then the local price of food is higher than it otherwise would have been (lower the supply of food and the price goes up). The price increase means more people can't afford enough food and become malnourished. Lots of money should be devoted to alleviating present hunger and starvation. Some climate change dollars could be devoted to assisting the poor in arid and hot regions who are probably already affected by climate change.

Charities offer to allow you to sponsor a child (so they are fed, provided with medicine and education) for about 300 dollars a year. On this measure we should be able to support the world's 1 billion malnourished people for 300 billion dollars a year (the amount we as industrialized nations may be commiting to fighting climate change). Interestingly, the UN World Food Programme said that they had a plan to feed 108 million malnourished people on a budget of 6.7 billion dollars - although they were only receiving about 3.7 billion dollars. This implies that the department is actually fairly efficient, costing only about 65 dollars to feed one malnourished person for one year (quite cheap compared to charities offering to sponsor a child for $22 dollars a month - although the charities often also provide medicine and education).

Jacob Levman