Food security

Figure 1: An abundance of accessible food is one of the factors for achieving food security.[1]

Food is just about the most important need for all humans to survive (only atmospheric oxygen is more important). Food security is when everyone has access to a sustainable, healthy, safe, abundant and economic means to acquire food. To achieve food security, all these factors must remain consistent over time.Food insecurity occurs when any of these factors fail to occur. The food system governs food security. This system includes the production, transportation, trade, storage, packing, sales, consumption and disposal of food globally. However with growing population and climate change, the food system and thus food security is at risk worldwide.[2]

Climate Factors Affecting Food Security

Human activities, mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels (but also deforestation and land use changes), are driving changes to the climate. Rapid changes in global temperatures due to increased greenhouse gas concentrations are affecting precipitation and soil moisture globally. Food availability, access, utilization and stability are factors that are slowly becoming affected by climate change.[3]

  • Food availability – As temperatures rise and soil lose moisture, many staple crops are being affected. These impacts are causing crop yields to diminish thus reducing the amount of food available.
  • Food access – As the crop yield drops, prices begin to increase. More vulnerable societies will have a lower output of crops, which in turn will diminish incomes. This drop in incomes and a rise in food prices will make it much more difficult for people to acquire affordable food.
  • Food utilization – As food becomes more difficult to acquire, the spread of disease and hunger will increase.
  • Food stability – Extreme weather events such as drought, storms and sea level rise also decreases crop yield globally. These factors create a much more difficult environment for adaptation to the changing climate.

Agricultural Adaptation

As climate has been affecting world food production, agricultural adaptation has become a major influence on maintaining food security. Adaptation involves steps and procedures taken to reduce the impacts of climate change on agriculture and to evolve with the changing climate. The capacity for a society to adapt depends on their socioeconomic strength. However adaptation can only go so far. Adaptation capacity is different depending on the area and society. A wealthier society can adapt to the changing climate while a poorer society could not. For example some areas are becoming increasingly too hot to sustain crops, in other areas it may be difficult and expensive to acquire enough water to balance the rise in temperatures.[2] See figures 2-4 for more details on how adaptation is lessening the effects of climate change.

Climate change vs Adaptation around the world

Agricultural adaptation will help prevent the worst impact of climate change, but will have trouble cancelling out the effects of climate change. The maps below (figures 2, 3 and 4) show how climate change will make people more vulnerable to food shortages. These maps were made with the interactive map from the has an World Food Programme. Try out different scenarios that shows how different factors arising from climate change are affecting food security globally and annually.[4]

Figure 2. A map from the World Food Programme[4] showing current food security. Note that countries with low scores on the human development index tend to have less access to food. OECD countries and countries with a high energy society have more access to food.
Figure 3. A map from the World Food Programme[4] showing a prediction of food security in 2080 based on climate change and a lack of agricultural adaptation. Note that climate change will be much worse for countries that have had less development than OECD countries with a high energy society. These wealthier countries will still suffer, just not as strongly.
Figure 4. A map from the World Food Programme[4] showing a prediction of food security in 2080 based on climate change and strong agricultural adaptation. Note that in this scenario the less developed countries don't suffer nearly as much as they do in figure 2 (no adaptation). Even still, the adaptation isn't enough to erase the effects of climate change. The effects are still more strongly felt in the developing countries than in the OECD countries.

References

  1. University of Tennessee. Global Issues Conference [Online]. Available: http://ihouse.utk.edu/programs/global_issue/
  2. 2.0 2.1 U.S. Global Change Research Program, USDA, UCAR, NCAR. Climate Change, Global Food Security and the U.S. Food System, DOI:10.7930/J0862DC7, Dec. 2015. Available: http://www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/FoodSecurity.htm
  3. World Food Programme. Climate Impacts on Food Security [Online]. Available: https://www.wfp.org/climate-change/climate-impacts
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 World Food Programme. Food Insecurity and Climate Change Interactive Map [Online]. Available:http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/food-insecurity-index/ accessed 2016-9-17

Authors and Editors

Celeste Pomerantz, Jason Donev
Last updated: June 4, 2018
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