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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The UN target for eliminating global hunger by 2030 looks increasingly unlikely after three years of backsliding, with fragile food systems facing challenges that range from political instability to climate change.

The big picture: About 820 million people, or 10.9% of the global population, are malnourished, per a UN Food and Agricultural Organization world hunger report. That's up from 784 million in 2015. Demand for food is expected to double between 2013 and 2050.

Why it matters: “The call for action is very clear. It is possible in our lifetime and it is also realistic to end hunger and malnutrition,” said Zambian Vice President Inonge Wina at the UN conference today, per AP.

Driving the news: Countries that are more exposed to climate variability have higher rates of malnutrition than those that don't, the report says.

  • The number of people facing "'crisis' levels of acute food insecurity or worse" increased from 80 to 124 million people from 2015 to 2017.
  • "The majority of people most vulnerable to climate shocks and natural hazards are the world’s 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, herders, fishers and forest-dependent communities."
  • "The number of extreme climate-related disasters, including extreme heat, droughts, floods and storms, has doubled since the early 1990s, with an average of 213 of these events occurring every year during the period of 1990–2016."

The bottom line: "Population growth requires supplies of more nutritious food at affordable prices, but increasing farm output is hard given the 'fragility of the natural resource base' since humans have outstripped Earth’s carrying capacity in terms of land, water and climate change," AP reported.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.