U.S. government action can curb the risks climate change poses to global food security, says a new report release by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
The report, Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate, was released at the Council’s Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington DC on May 22. The 132-page report explains how higher temperatures, changes in rainfall and natural disasters caused by climate change could undermine food production and put food supplies at risk. In total, climate change could reduce food production growth by 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century.
Building on the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change report and National Climate Assessment, The Chicago Council’s study explains how higher temperatures, changes in rainfall and natural disasters caused by climate change could undermine food production and put food supplies at risk. In total, climate change could reduce food production growth by 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century, it warns.
The report attributes climate change to 2010 devastating floods in Pakistan, which were caused by unusual monsoon. ”The floods submerged 17 million acres of the country’s most fertile croplands. The flooding also killed over 200,000 head of livestock and washed away large quantities of stored commodities that would ordinarily feed millions of people throughout the year.” The floods left 2,000 people dead and cost Pakistan’s economy 9.7 billion dollars in damage.
The report acknowledges that while such types of extreme events have been rare, the likelihood, duration and intensity of such events are expected to increase due to climate change. “Even more frequent small weather events can still cause significant harm,” it says.
It says temperatures are expected to continue rising throughout this century, bringing about a host of weather-related consequences.
The report notes that while the effects of climate change on the food system remain difficult to disentangle from other forces of change in the short term, it is apparent that global agricultural landscape will be altered.
It says for most countries, climate change has been a drag on yields. “A conspicuous exception is the United States, where corn, wheat and soybean yield growth has been thus far almost unaffected.” But it warns that extreme weather events will cause agricultural “good” and “bad” years to shift from country to country more frequently and increase the likelihood of continuous “bad” years in many countries.
“Consequently the likelihood of more severe and more frequent food supply disruptions will increase.”
The report calls on the U.S. government to integrate climate change adaptation into its global food security strategy. Its recommendations include:
- Passing legislation for a long-term global food and nutrition security strategy.
- Increasing funding for agricultural research on climate change adaptation. Research priorities should include improving crop and livestock tolerance to higher temperatures and volatile weather, combating pests and disease and reducing food waste.
- Collecting better data and making information on weather more widely available to farmers. There are significant global data gaps right now on weather; water availability, quality, and future requirements; crop performance; land use; and consumer preferences.
- Increasing funding for partnerships between U.S. universities and universities and research institutions in low-income countries, to train the next generation of agricultural leaders.
- Advancing international action through urging that food security be addressed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
“As a global leader in agriculture, the United States should act now,” a news release quoted Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and co-chair of the study, as saying. “It has much to gain by doing so: the continued productivity of the U.S. farm sector, strong international agricultural markets, more stable societies and demonstration of its national commitment to food and nutrition security for the world’s people.”
A bipartisan group of scientific, business, and policy leaders led by former Congressmen Dan Glickman (D), former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and Doug Bereuter, president emeritus of The Asia Foundation (R), have endorsed the report’s recommendations. Gerald C. Nelson, a leading expert on climate change and food security, was the principal author. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and PepsiCo provided generous support to make this report possible.