Climate Change and Food Security

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Climate Change and Food Security
Prepared by Lauren Sacks and Cynthia Rosenzweig
Over the past fifty years, human ingenuity has led to technological advances in agriculture that have dramatically increased crop yields. However, despite these improvements, agriculture is still highly dependent on climate since solar radiation, temperature, and precipitation are the main drivers of crop growth. Since the industrial revolution, humans have been changing the global climate by emitting high amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, potentially resulting in higher global temperatures, changed hydrological regimes, and increased climatic variability. Climate change over the next century may have significant effects on food supply, i.e., how much food is produced, as well as food security, i.e. how much food is available to people. How much, where, and when food supply and security will be affected by climate change are questions many scientists and policy-makers are examining. Global Warming and Food Security

It seems obvious that any significant change in climate on a global scale should impact local agriculture and thereby affect the world's food supply. Considerable study has gone into the questions of how farming might be affected in different regions, and by how much; and whether the net result may be harmful or beneficial, and to whom. Some of the major organizations studying the effect of climate change on agriculture include:

· Food and Agriculture Organization
· Columbia Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)
· The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - Accessed 26 August 2008
Impacts of Climate Change on Food Production and
Overall, climate change, including global warming and increased climate variability, could result in a variety of impacts on agriculture. Some of these effects are biophysical, some are ecological, and some are economic (UNFCCC Climate Change Information Kit).

They include:
· A shift in climate and agricultural zones towards the poles · Changes in production patterns due to higher temperatures · A boost in agricultural productivity due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

· Changing precipitation patterns
· Increased vulnerability of the landless and the poor.
Rosenzweig and Hillel (1995) explain these and other ideas in Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture and Food Supply.
In the early 1990's in a study sponsored by EPA, agricultural scientists in 18 countries estimated potential changes in national grain crop yields using crop models and the GCM scenarios at 112 sites worldwide (Rosenzweig and Parry, 1994) (Figure 3). The results of this global assessment suggests that a doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration will lead to only a small decrease in the global crop production. However, it appears that developing countries in lower latitudes will bear the brunt of these problems (Figure 4).

Several factors contribute to the latitudinal differences in simulated yields. In high latitude regions, increased temperatures benefited crops otherwise limited by cold temperatures and short growing seasons. The climate change induced warming at low latitudes brought greater heat and water stress, resulting in greater yield decreases than at higher latitudes. - Accessed 26 August 2008
In addition, in Rosenzweig et al., Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events; Implications for Food Production, Plant Diseases, and Pests, the authors found that global food supply may be affected by an increase in extreme weather events and climate variability associated with global warming. Altered weather patterns can increase crop vulnerabilities to infection, pest infestations, and choking weeds. This will...
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