Mother Jones] Last December, the climate summit in Paris offered journalists an unprecedented opportunity to reframe the global warming story. Climate reporting used to rest on the tacit understanding that the problem is overwhelming and intractable. That no longer rings true. While we have a better understanding than ever of the potential calamity in store, we finally have a clear vision of a path forward—and momentum for actually getting there.
To that end, Paris was a turning point for me personally, too: It was
the end of the beginning of my career as an environmental journalist.
This week I'm leaving Mother Jones after five years covering
climate and other green stories. Paris underscored that it's past time
for me to look beyond the borders of the United States. That's why, this
fall, I'm going to undertake a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.
For at least nine months, I'll move between Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria
to document how climate change is affecting food security.
I see agriculture in Africa as one of the most important yet
underreported stories about climate change today. It's a fascinating
intersection of science, politics, technology, culture, and all the
other things that make climate such a rich vein of reporting. At that
intersection, the scale of the challenge posed by global warming is
matched only by the scale of opportunity to innovate and adapt. There
are countless stories waiting to be told, featuring a brilliant and
diverse cast of scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians, farmers,
families, and more.
East Africa is already the hungriest place on Earth: One in every
three people live without sufficient access to nutritious food, according to the United Nations.
Crop yields in the region are the lowest on the planet. African farms
have one-tenth the productivity of Western farms on average, and
sub-Saharan Africa is the only place on the planet where per capita food production is actually falling.
Now, climate change threatens to compound those problems by raising
temperatures and disrupting the seasonal rains on which many farmers
depend. An index
produced by the University of Notre Dame ranks 180 of the world's
countries based on their vulnerability to climate change impacts (No. 1,
New Zealand, is the least vulnerable; the United State is ranked No.
11). The best-ranked mainland African country is South Africa, down at
No. 84; Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda rank at No. 147, No. 154, and No.
160, respectively. In other words, these are among the
places that will be hit hardest by climate change. More often than not,
the agricultural sector will experience some of the worst impacts. Emerging research indicates
that climate change could drive down yields of staples such as rice,
wheat, and maize 20 percent by 2050. Worsening and widespread drought
could shorten the growing season in some places by up to 40 percent. Read More