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Climate-sensitive region the only in the world where rate of undernourishment has risen over the past 12 years.

Vanuatu’s capital Port Villa after Cyclone Pam in 2015. Pacific islands’ food production is heavily susceptible to climate extremes. Photograph: Tom Perry/AFP/Getty Images

Climate change is making people hungry – with nearly 100 million people across the world needing humanitarian food aid because of climate shocks last year – and a growing number of people are malnourished across the Pacific, a new United Nations report says.

Last week, the Pacific Islands Forum stated formally that climate change represented the “single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security, and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific” – a declaration Australia ultimately signed but had spent much of the forum attempting to undermine.

Worldwide, the number of undernourished people has been rising since 2014, reaching 821 million last year – or one in nine people across the globe – the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report found.

The number of hungry people globally has returned to levels of nearly a decade ago, and nearly one in four (22.2%) children aged under five are stunted through malnutrition.

Low- and middle-income countries were especially acutely affected by more frequent climate extremes and natural disasters. Africa remains the region where malnourishment is most common at 20.4% of the population. But “Oceania” – broadly synonymous with the Pacific region but excluding Australia and New Zealand – is the only region in the world where the rate of undernourishment has increased over the past 12 years, to 7%.

Read more: Climate change driving up malnutrition rates in Pacific, UN warns

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Scientists have long feared that as Earth warms, tropical peatlands -- which store up to 10 percent of the planet's soil carbon -- could dry out, decay and release vast pools of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, rapidly accelerating climate change.

Read more: Natural mechanism could lower emissions from tropical peatlands

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The Church is uniquely positioned to influence global leadership on climate change. Flickr/Catholic Church England

Earlier this month, Pope Francis invited to Rome a diverse group of scientists, economists, activists, diplomats, youth and indigenous representatives for a conference celebrating the third anniversary of his landmark encyclical letter Laudato Si. In the encyclical, the Pope urged the world to protect global ecosystems while uplifting the poor and vulnerable, sending a wake-up call to the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide—and many others—to rally for a global movement for climate action.

Read more: With 1.2 Billion Members, the Catholic Church Can Lead on Climate Action. Here Are 3 Ways How.

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