USDA Report Warns Climate Change Likely to Impede Progress on Global Food Security
Climate change is likely to impede progress on reducing undernourishment around the world in the decades ahead, according to a scientific assessment released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The report, which identifies the risks that climate change poses to global food security and the challenges facing farmers and consumers, was presented at the recent Paris climate conference.
In the absence of response measures, climate change is likely to diminish continued progress on global food security through production disruptions that lead to constraints on local availability and price increases, interrupted transportation conduits, and diminished food safety, among other causes. The risks are greatest for the global poor and in tropical regions.
Food systems in the United States benefit from a large area of arable land, high agricultural yields, vast integrated transportation systems, and a high level of overall economic development. However, changes in climate are expected to affect U.S. consumers and producers by altering the type and price of food imports from other regions of the world, as well as by changing export demand, and transportation, processing, storage, infrastructure that enable global trade, according to the report.
“The report found that climate change is likely to cause disruptions in food production and a decrease in food safety, which in turn leads to local availability limitations and increases in food prices,” said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Accurately identifying needs and vulnerabilities, and effectively targeting adaptive practices and technologies across the full scope of the food system, are central to improving global food security in a changing climate.”
Climate risks to food security increase as the magnitude and rate of climate change increase, the report noted. Under scenarios with continued increases in greenhouse gas emissions the number of people at risk of undernourishment would increase by as much as 175 million above today’s level by 2080. Scenarios with lower population growth and more robust economic growth coupled with lower greenhouse gas emissions resulted in large reductions in the number of food insecure people compared to today.
Effective adaptation can reduce food system vulnerability to climate change and reduce detrimental climate change effects on food security, but socioeconomic conditions can impede the adoption of technically feasible adaptation options. There are many opportunities to strengthen agricultural economies and bring more advanced methods of crop production to low-yielding agricultural regions. Other promising adaptations include reducing food waste through innovative packaging, expanding cold storage to lengthen shelf life, and improving transportation infrastructure to move food more rapidly to markets.