The U.N. blames climate change for Madagascar’s food crisis. Scientists say it’s not the main cause.
Southern Madagascar is suffering its worst drought in decades, devastating crops and leaving more than a million people in need of urgent food aid. And for months, United Nations officials have warned that the African island nation is on the brink of the world’s first climate-change-induced famine.
Now, new research has cast doubt on whether global warming is the main cause — underscoring the pitfalls of viewing food crises primarily as a result of human-caused climate impact.
Factors including poverty, natural weather variability and the coronavirus pandemic have had a bigger effect on Madagascar’s food crisis than climate change, according to a study published Wednesday by World Weather Attribution, an international research collective.
It is likely that climate change contributed to increased droughts in the region, the scientists said, though they added that “these trends remain overwhelmed by natural variability.”
“When you just blame everything on climate change then you take all the agency away from local decision-makers to actually deal with the disasters,” Friederike Otto, co-head of the researchers, told Reuters.
The group of scientists based in the Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe and the United States used peer-reviewed methods to assess the extent human actions were responsible for the below-average rainfall in southern Madagascar.
Officials from the U.N. World Food Program have for months been referring to the crisis in Madagascar as being driven by climate change. A senior WFP official in the country said in November that pockets of the country’s south were experiencing “famine-like conditions,” which he described as “basically the only — maybe the first — climate change famine on Earth.”
WFP didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
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