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Climate Change Reflects Increase in Locust Outbreaks; Threatens Global Food Security: Study Reveals

Research published in Science Advances reveals the alarming connection between locust outbreaks and climate change; know more

Saurabh Shukla
Climate Change Reflects Increase in Locust Outbreaks; Threatens Global Food Security: Study Reveals (Photo Source: ICRC)
Climate Change Reflects Increase in Locust Outbreaks; Threatens Global Food Security: Study Reveals (Photo Source: ICRC)

A groundbreaking study led by Xiaogang He of the National University of Singapore has uncovered a disturbing connection between locust outbreaks and climate change. New research published in Science Advances reveals how extreme weather events contribute to the proliferation of locusts, posing a dire threat to global food security. Urgent action and enhanced cooperation are needed to fortify preventive measures and mitigate the vulnerability in the face of this burgeoning crisis.

Understanding the Threat

Locusts, known for their ability to form massive swarms and devastate crops, are deemed the most destructive migratory pest by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. These insects can consume vast quantities of crops, leading to famine and hunger in affected regions.

Locust outbreaks are caused by swarms of locusts, which can contain billions of insects and are capable of devastating crops in a matter of hours. The challenge of controlling these outbreaks is further exacerbated by the effects of climate change, which can create ideal conditions for locusts to breed and thrive.

The severity of locust outbreaks has escalated in recent years, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. The notable 2019-2020 outbreak in East Africa, the worst in 25 years, left a trail of agricultural destruction, jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions.

Linking Climate Change to Locust Outbreaks

The study published in Science Advances analyzed data spanning from 1985 to 2020, revealing a compelling correlation between locust infestations and meteorological and environmental factors. Factors such as air temperature, precipitation patterns, soil moisture levels, and wind dynamics were found to significantly influence locust behavior. Extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall and strong winds, create favorable conditions for locust breeding and migration by increasing soil moisture, and vegetation growth, and aiding in long-distance travel.

For example, increased temperatures and rainfall can lead to an increase in vegetation which provides an abundant food source for locusts. Additionally, extreme weather events such as cyclones and floods can create ideal breeding conditions for locusts by creating temporary pools of water, which are ideal for their eggs to hatch.

Role of Climate Change

Human-induced climate change intensifies these weather patterns, heightening the risk of locust outbreaks in the future. With climate change projected to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, the likelihood of locust infestations is expected to rise substantially. Under a high-emission scenario, the probability of locust outbreaks could surge by 50% to 80% by the century's end, amplifying the threat to global food security.

Implications and Call to Action

The implications of these findings are grave, as locust outbreaks imperil the food security and livelihoods of millions worldwide. The study underscores the urgent need for regional and continental cooperation to prevent and control locust outbreaks. Building early warning systems and enhancing forecasting models are imperative steps, along with implementing adaptation measures such as crop diversification and pest-resistant varieties to reduce farmers' vulnerability.

Locust outbreaks represent a complex and dynamic challenge aggravated by climate change. As the Earth's climate continues to evolve, addressing the intertwined issues of climate change and locust dynamics becomes increasingly urgent. The efforts to control locust outbreaks must be both timely and coordinated, involving a range of stakeholders including farmers, governments, and international organizations.


The study's findings showcase the critical importance of proactive intervention and collaborative efforts to safeguard global food security in the face of this escalating threat.

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