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Papers on climate impact on world food supply

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on October 16, 2011

This is a list of papers on climate impact on world food supply. Emphasis is on global analysis. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in the future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

I am proud to be taking part in Blog Action Day OCT 16 2011

Climate change, plant diseases and food security: an overview – Chakraborty & Newton (2011) “Global food production must increase by 50% to meet the projected demand of the world’s population by 2050. Meeting this difficult challenge will be made even harder if climate change melts portions of the Himalayan glaciers to affect 25% of world cereal production in Asia by influencing water availability. Pest and disease management has played its role in doubling food production in the last 40 years, but pathogens still claim 10–16% of the global harvest. We consider the effect of climate change on the many complex biological interactions affecting pests and pathogen impacts and how they might be manipulated to mitigate these effects. Integrated solutions and international co-ordination in their implementation are considered essential. Providing a background on key constraints to food security, this overview uses fusarium head blight as a case study to illustrate key influences of climate change on production and quality of wheat, outlines key links between plant diseases, climate change and food security, and highlights key disease management issues to be addressed in improving food security in a changing climate.” S. Chakraborty, A. C. Newton, Plant Pathology, Special Issue: Climate Change and Plant Diseases, Volume 60, Issue 1, pages 2–14, February 2011. [Full text]

Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People – Godfray et al. (2010) “Continuing population and consumption growth will mean that the global demand for food will increase for at least another 40 years. Growing competition for land, water, and energy, in addition to the overexploitation of fisheries, will affect our ability to produce food, as will the urgent requirement to reduce the impact of the food system on the environment. The effects of climate change are a further threat. But the world can produce more food and can ensure that it is used more efficiently and equitably. A multifaceted and linked global strategy is needed to ensure sustainable and equitable food security, different components of which are explored here.” H. Charles J. Godfray, John R. Beddington, Ian R. Crute, Lawrence Haddad, David Lawrence, James F. Muir, Jules Pretty, Sherman Robinson, Sandy M. Thomas and Camilla Toulmin, Science 12 February 2010: Vol. 327 no. 5967 pp. 812-818, DOI: 10.1126/science.1185383. [Full text]

Food security and global environmental change: emerging challenges – Ericksen et al. (2009) “Most research linking global environmental change and food security focuses solely on agriculture: either the impact of climate change on agricultural production, or the impact of agriculture on the environment, e.g. on land use, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and/or biodiversity. Important though food production is, many other factors also need to be considered to understand food security. A recent international conference on “Environmental Change and Food Security: Bridging Science, Policy and Development for Adaptation” included a range of papers that embraced the multiple dimensions of the food systems that underpin food security. The major conclusion from the conference was that technical fixes alone will not solve the food security challenge. Adapting to the additional threats to food security arising from major environmental changes requires an integrated food system approach, not just a focus on agricultural practices. Six key issues emerged for future research: (i) adapting food systems to global environmental change requires more than just technological solutions to increase agricultural yields; (ii) tradeoffs across multiple scales among food system outcomes are a pervasive feature of globalized food systems; (iii) within food systems, there are some key underexplored areas that are both sensitive to environmental change but also crucial to understanding its implications for food security and adaptation strategies; (iv) scenarios specifically designed to investigate the wider issues that underpin food security and the environmental consequences of different adaptation options are lacking; (v) price variability and volatility often threaten food security; and (vi) more attention needs to be paid to the governance of food systems.” Polly J. Ericksen, John S.I. Ingram, Diana M. Liverman, Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 12, Issue 4, June 2009, Pages 373-377, doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2009.04.007.

Historical Warnings of Future Food Insecurity with Unprecedented Seasonal Heat – Battisti & Naylor (2009) “Higher growing season temperatures can have dramatic impacts on agricultural productivity, farm incomes, and food security. We used observational data and output from 23 global climate models to show a high probability (>90%) that growing season temperatures in the tropics and subtropics by the end of the 21st century will exceed the most extreme seasonal temperatures recorded from 1900 to 2006. In temperate regions, the hottest seasons on record will represent the future norm in many locations. We used historical examples to illustrate the magnitude of damage to food systems caused by extreme seasonal heat and show that these short-run events could become long-term trends without sufficient investments in adaptation.” David. S. Battisti and Rosamond L. Naylor, Science 9 January 2009: Vol. 323 no. 5911 pp. 240-244, DOI: 10.1126/science.1164363.

Prioritizing Climate Change Adaptation Needs for Food Security in 2030 – Lobell et al. (2008) “Investments aimed at improving agricultural adaptation to climate change inevitably favor some crops and regions over others. An analysis of climate risks for crops in 12 food-insecure regions was conducted to identify adaptation priorities, based on statistical crop models and climate projections for 2030 from 20 general circulation models. Results indicate South Asia and Southern Africa as two regions that, without sufficient adaptation measures, will likely suffer negative impacts on several crops that are important to large food-insecure human populations. We also find that uncertainties vary widely by crop, and therefore priorities will depend on the risk attitudes of investment institutions.” David B. Lobell, Marshall B. Burke, Claudia Tebaldi, Michael D. Mastrandrea, Walter P. Falcon and Rosamond L. Naylor, Science 1 February 2008: Vol. 319 no. 5863 pp. 607-610, DOI: 10.1126/science.1152339. [Full text]

Food Security Under Climate Change – Brown & Funk (2008) “Food insecurity is likely to increase under climate change, unless early warning systems and development programs are used more effectively.” Molly E. Brown and Christopher C. Funk, Science 1 February 2008: Vol. 319 no. 5863 pp. 580-581, DOI: 10.1126/science.1154102.

Global food security under climate change – Schmidhuber & Tubiello (2007) “This article reviews the potential impacts of climate change on food security. It is found that of the four main elements of food security, i.e., availability, stability, utilization, and access, only the first is routinely addressed in simulation studies. To this end, published results indicate that the impacts of climate change are significant, however, with a wide projected range (between 5 million and 170 million additional people at risk of hunger by 2080) strongly depending on assumed socio-economic development. The likely impacts of climate change on the other important dimensions of food security are discussed qualitatively, indicating the potential for further negative impacts beyond those currently assessed with models. Finally, strengths and weaknesses of current assessment studies are discussed, suggesting improvements and proposing avenues for new analyses.” Josef Schmidhuber and Francesco N. Tubiello, PNAS December 11, 2007 vol. 104 no. 50 19703-19708, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0701976104. [Full text]

Climate change and food security – Gregory et al. (2005) “Dynamic interactions between and within the biogeophysical and human environments lead to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food, resulting in food systems that underpin food security. Food systems encompass food availability (production, distribution and exchange), food access (affordability, allocation and preference) and food utilization (nutritional and societal values and safety), so that food security is, therefore, diminished when food systems are stressed. Such stresses may be induced by a range of factors in addition to climate change and/or other agents of environmental change (e.g. conflict, HIV/AIDS) and may be particularly severe when these factors act in combination. Urbanization and globalization are causing rapid changes to food systems. Climate change may affect food systems in several ways ranging from direct effects on crop production (e.g. changes in rainfall leading to drought or flooding, or warmer or cooler temperatures leading to changes in the length of growing season), to changes in markets, food prices and supply chain infrastructure. The relative importance of climate change for food security differs between regions. For example, in southern Africa, climate is among the most frequently cited drivers of food insecurity because it acts both as an underlying, ongoing issue and as a short-lived shock. The low ability to cope with shocks and to mitigate long-term stresses means that coping strategies that might be available in other regions are unavailable or inappropriate. In other regions, though, such as parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain of India, other drivers, such as labour issues and the availability and quality of ground water for irrigation, rank higher than the direct effects of climate change as factors influencing food security. Because of the multiple socio-economic and bio-physical factors affecting food systems and hence food security, the capacity to adapt food systems to reduce their vulnerability to climate change is not uniform. Improved systems of food production, food distribution and economic access may all contribute to food systems adapted to cope with climate change, but in adopting such changes it will be important to ensure that they contribute to sustainability. Agriculture is a major contributor of the greenhouse gases methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), so that regionally derived policies promoting adapted food systems need to mitigate further climate change.” P.J Gregory, J.S.I Ingram and M Brklacich, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 29 November 2005 vol. 360 no. 1463 2139-2148, doi: 10.1098/rstb.2005.1745. [Full text]

Climate change, global food supply and risk of hunger – Parry et al. (2005) “This paper reports the results of a series of research projects which have aimed to evaluate the implications of climate change for food production and risk of hunger. There are three sets of results: (a) for IS92a (previously described as a ‘business-as-usual’ climate scenario); (b) for stabilization scenarios at 550 and 750 ppm and (c) for Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES). The main conclusions are: (i) the region of greatest risk is Africa; (ii) stabilization at 750 ppm avoids some but not most of the risk, while stabilization at 550 ppm avoids most of the risk and (iii) the impact of climate change on risk of hunger is influenced greatly by pathways of development. For example, a SRES B2 development pathway is characterized by much lower levels of risk than A2; and this is largely explained by differing levels of income and technology not by differing amounts of climate forcing.” Martin Parry, Cynthia Rosenzweig and Matthew Livermore, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 29 November 2005 vol. 360 no. 1463 2125-2138, doi: 10.1098/rstb.2005.1751. [Full text]

In addition to the 2 papers above, see also other papers in Philosophical Transactions B Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Food crops in a changing climate’

Effects of climate change on global food production under SRES emissions and socio-economic scenarios – Parry et al. (2004) “This paper analyses the global consequences to crop yields, production, and risk of hunger of linked socio-economic and climate scenarios. Potential impacts of climate change are estimated for climate change scenarios developed from the HadCM3 global climate model under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A1FI, A2, B1, and B2. Projected changes in yield are calculated using transfer functions derived from crop model simulations with observed climate data and projected climate change scenarios. The basic linked system (BLS) is used to evaluate consequent changes in global cereal production, cereal prices and the number of people at risk from hunger. The crop yield results elucidate the complex regional patterns of projected climate variables, CO2 effects, and agricultural systems that contribute to aggregations of global crop production. The A1FI scenario, as expected with its large increase in global temperatures, exhibits the greatest decreases both regionally and globally in yields, especially by the 2080s. The contrast between the yield change in developed and developing countries is largest under the A2a–c scenarios. Under the B1 and B2 scenarios, developed and developing countries exhibit less contrast in crop yield changes, with the B2 future crop yield changes being slightly more favourable than those of the B1 scenario. When crop yield results are introduced to the BLS world food trade system model, the combined model and scenario experiments demonstrate that the world, for the most part, appears to be able to continue to feed itself under the SRES scenarios during the rest of this century. However, this outcome is achieved through production in the developed countries (which mostly benefit from climate change) compensating for declines projected, for the most part, for developing nations. While global production appears stable, regional differences in crop production are likely to grow stronger through time, leading to a significant polarisation of effects, with substantial increases in prices and risk of hunger amongst the poorer nations, especially under scenarios of greater inequality (A1FI and A2). The use of the SRES scenarios highlights several non-linearities in the world food supply system, both in the biophysical sense, where the levels of atmospheric CO2 tested reach new levels, and the socio-economic sense, where changes in population dynamics and economic and political structures complicate the translation of biophysical climate change impacts into social indices, such as the number of people at risk of hunger.” M.L Parry, C Rosenzweig, A Iglesias, M Livermore, G Fischer, Global Environmental Change, Volume 14, Issue 1, April 2004, Pages 53-67, doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2003.10.008. [Full text]

Climate change and world food security: a new assessment – Parry et al. (1999) “Building on previous work quantitative estimates of climate change impacts on global food production have been made for the UK Hadley Centre’s HadCM2 greenhouse gas only ensemble experiment and the more recent HadCM3 experiment (Hulme et al., 1999). The consequences for world food prices and the number of people at risk of hunger as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO, 1988) have also been assessed. Climate change is expected to increase yields at high and mid-latitudes, and lead to decreases at lower latitudes. This pattern becomes more pronounced as time progresses. The food system may be expected to accommodate such regional variations at the global level, with production, prices and the risk of hunger being relatively unaffected by the additional stress of climate change. By the 2080s the additional number of people at risk of hunger due to climate change is about 80 million people (±10 million depending on which of the four HadCM2 ensemble members is selected). However, some regions (particularly the arid and sub-humid tropics) will be adversely affected. A particular example is Africa, which is expected to experience marked reductions in yield, decreases in production, and increases in the risk of hunger as a result of climate change. The continent can expect to have between 55 and 65 million extra people at risk of hunger by the 2080s under the HadCM2 climate scenario. Under the HadCM3 climate scenario the effect is even more severe, producing an estimated additional 70+ million people at risk of hunger in Africa.” Martin Parry, Cynthia Rosenzweig, Ana Iglesias, Günther Fischer, Matthew Livermore, Global Environmental Change, Volume 9, Supplement 1, October 1999, Pages S51-S67, doi:10.1016/S0959-3780(99)00018-7.

Potential impact of climate change on world food supply – Rosenzweig & Parry (1994) “A global assessment of the potential impact of climate change on world food supply suggests that doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration will lead to only a small decrease in global crop production. But developing countries are likely to bear the brunt of the problem, and simulations of the effect of adaptive measures by farmers imply that these will do little to reduce the disparity between developed and developing countries.” Cynthia Rosenzweig & Martin L. Parry, Nature 367, 133 – 138 (13 January 1994); doi:10.1038/367133a0. [Full text]

Climate change and world food supply, demand and trade: Who benefits, who loses? – Fischer et al. (1994) “This paper summarizes the findings of a major interdisciplinary research effort by scientists in 25 countries. The study examined the potential biophysical responses of major food crops to changing atmospheric composition and climate, and projected potential socioeconomic consequences. In a first step crop models were used to estimate how changing climatic conditions might alter yields of major crops at a number of sites representing both major production areas and vulnerable regions at low, mid and high latitudes. Then a dynamic recursive national-level model of the world food system was used to assess socio-economic impacts for the period 1990 up to year 2060.” G. Fischer, K. Frohberg, M.L. Parry, C. Rosenzweig, Global Environmental Change, Volume 4, Issue 1, March 1994, Pages 7-23, doi:10.1016/0959-3780(94)90018-3.


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