Africa-Gate? U.N. Fears of Food Shortages Questioned
The U.N.'s controversial climate report is coming under fire -- again --
this time by one of its own scientists, who admits he can't find any
evidence to support a warning about a climate-caused North African food
The statement comes from a key 2007 report to the U.N., and asserts that by
2020 yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% in some
African countries thanks to climate change.
But this weekend, a key author of the team behind that report told The
Sunday Times that he could find no evidence to support his own group's
claim. The revelation follows the retraction by the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) of a claim that the Himalayan glaciers might all
melt by 2035, dubbed 'Glaciergate' by commentators.
The newest controversial claim could become a very important error in the
IPCC's reporting, because it comes not only from the IPCC's report on
climate change impacts -- called Assessment Report 4, or AR4 -- but is also
repeated in its "Synthesis Report." That report is the IPCC's most
politically sensitive publication, distilling its most important science
into a form accessible to politicians and policy makers.
Its lead authors include IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri himself, who has
quoted it in speeches, as has U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
Speaking at the 2008 global climate talks in Poznan, Poland, Pachauri said:
"In some countries of Africa, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be
reduced by 50% by 2020." In a speech last July, Ban said: "Yields from
rain-fed agriculture could fall by half in some African countries over the
next 10 years."
Speaking this weekend, Professor Chris Field, the new lead author of the
IPCC's climate impacts team, said: "I was not an author on the 'Synthesis
Report,' but on reading it I cannot find support for the statement about
African crop yield declines."
This sort of claim should be based on hard evidence, said Robert Watson,
chief scientist at Defra, the U.K.'s department for environment food and
rural affairs, who chaired the IPCC from 1997 to 2002.
"Any such projection should be based on peer-reviewed literature from
computer modelling of how agricultural yields would respond to climate
change. I can see no such data supporting the IPCC report," he said.