15 December 2014

Climate Change and Nutrition: What do we do differently?

It is good news that an agreement has been sketched out in Peru at the COP20 climate talks for a roadmap to longer lasting deal in Paris at the end of 2015.

Despite the criticisms from some groups that it is watered down, at least it keeps hope alive that something effective and realistic can be finalised in a years time.

But what does this mean for the way nutrition programmes and initiatives are designed and planned?

We think that climate change affects food production in a way that is not good for nutrition.  We also think that climate change increases the incidence of diarrheal diseases and other infectious diseases that negatively impact on nutrition. This set of slides from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine provides a good primer and summary of key studies.

Clearly, our nutrition strategies are going to have to adapt, but how?

On the adaptation side the changes that nutrition strategies will have to make will vary country by country and region by region, but the need to adapt means an ever greater emphasis on the need to link food and nutrition data with climate data such as temperature and rainfall data at the subnational level.

The problem is, we don't have much subnational nutrition data.  I wonder if there is a benefit to modelling nutrition outcomes much as we modelled poverty rates by combining surveys and censuses in the poverty mapping domain?

Climate change also places a greater value on the diversity of the location of production and on the diversity of crops and products within production systems.  Diversity is one way of spreading the risks that a changing and uncertain climate brings.  Diversity of production should also have a positive impact on diet diversity where food markets are weak.

Social protection programmes should play an even bigger role in a context of more shocks and uncertainty as they help families smooth consumption without having to take kids out of school or forgoing health care.

WASH programmes will have to become more alert to changes in water tables and drainage systems.

The emphasis on prevention will be stronger and this strengthens the case for things like exclusive breastfeeding and fortification/supplementation with iodine, iron, folic acid, zinc and vitamin A.

On the mitigation side, we don't really know what the emissions consequences are of different nutrition strategies.  A first step in this regard is to measure the resource use and emission consequences of different strategies.  Technical Note 4 from the Global Nutrition Report was produced by the Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) and I think it represents a good summary of where we are and provides some good ideas of where we need to go and how to get there (see Table from the note, below).

The climate debate may seem a world away from the nutrition community, but the world where climate and nutrition interact is already here.  Just like everyone else, we need to be prepared.


Auten Davis said...

Hi Lawrence

Thanks for this but I think there are good overlaps

one area you say there i limited work - the climate impact of different nutrition production models has been published by Tilman and Clrke in nature Nov 2014 - its a good read and shows there is considerabel co-benefits of a nutrition and climate lens

Austen Davis

Austen Davis said...

There is a new paper from Nov 2014 in Nature by Tilman and Clarke that show healthy diets are low emission production as well - healthy planet healthy population

its a great paper

I think the Climate and nutrition agenda is going to be more intimately linked han just we shoul dall be interested