Food Security and Climate Change

Publication - 1 December, 2008
Climate change will profoundly affect agriculture worldwide.Food security in many countries is under threat from unpredictable changes in rainfall and more frequent extreme weather. Farmers in poorer countries with harsh climate conditions will likely be most affected.A review of recent scientific literature underlines that the mosteffective strategy to adapt agriculture to climate change is toincrease biodiversity. A mix of different crops and varieties inone field is a proven and highly reliable farming method to increase resilience to erratic weather changes. And, the best ways to increase stress tolerance in single varieties are modern breeding technologies that do not entail genetic engineering, such as Marker Assisted Selection. In contrast,there is no evidence that genetically engineered (GE) plantscan ever play any role to increase food security in a changingclimate.

Food Security and Climate Change

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Executive summary: Some of the most profound and direct impacts of climate changeover the next few decades will be on agriculture and food systems(Brown and Funk 2008). All quantitative assessments show thatclimate change will adversely affect food security (Schmidhuber andTubiello 2007).

Increasing temperatures, declining and more unpredictable rainfall,more frequent extreme weather and higher severity of pest anddisease are among the more drastic changes that would impactfood production (Parry et al. 2007, Kotschi 2007, Morton 2007,Brown and Funk 2008, Lobell et al. 2008). However, global trendsmask tremendous regional differences, with the poorest being mostat risk both by global climate variations and global commodity pricefluctuations (Diaz et al. 2006). Some of the most important effectsof global climate change will be felt among smallholder farmers,predominantly in developing countries (Morton 2007).

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reportpredicts the probability of more heat waves, heavy rainfall, droughtsand other extreme weather throughout the 21st century (Parry et al.2007).

Warming in the Indian Ocean and an increasingly “El Niño–like”climate could reduce main-season precipitation across most of Africa,East and South Asia, and Central and South America (see Figure 1)(Brown and Funk 2008).

It has been shown that by 2080, the 40 poorest countries, locatedpredominantly in tropical Africa and Latin America, could lose 10 to20 percent of their basic grain growing capacity due to drought(Kotschi 2007). The biggest problem for food security will be thepredicted increase in extreme weather, which will damage crops atparticular developmental stages and make the timing of farming moredifficult, reducing farmers’ incentives to cultivate (Morton 2007).

Number of pages: 8

See also:

Agriculture at a Crossroads: Food for Survival (2009) - The most recent report by Greenpeace on the IAASTD's review of agricultural knowledge and development.