As the COP-21 Climate Change Summit in Paris got under way this week, Tom Vilsack, US Agriculture Secretary, did something counter-intuitive: his office, the USDA, published a report warning of the “risks” climate change poses to agriculture and long-term food security.
USDA’s report - Climate Change, Global Food Security and the US Food System – noted that, as efforts increase to tackle climate change, so too would the number of people struggling for food.
US President Barack Obama has pledged to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 28% by 2030. However, this is likely to hit consumers and producers with changes to the prices of imported produce, as well changes to infrastructure, export demand, processing and storage.
Researchers analysed a range of hypothetical scenarios on the global effort to reduce GHGs. And the USDA concluded that an additional 175m people would be food-insecure by 2080.
In the report, Vilsack said: “The past six years have been a success story in terms of global food security. Two hundred million fewer people are food-insecure today than they were six years ago. The challenge we now face is whether we can maintain and even accelerate this progress despite the threats from climate change.”
Food security is likely to be most severe in low-GDP, tropical nations, said the report.
It also outlined how climate change would hit food production and distribution, and thus food security. These include: interrupted transport channels, rising global prices, diminished food safety and reductions in local availability of produce.
Barack Obama’s special adviser on science, Dr John Holdren, added: “The report found that climate change is likely to cause disruptions in food production and a decrease in food safety, which in turn leads to local availability limitations and increases in food prices, with these risks greatest for the global poor.
“Accurately identifying needs and vulnerabilities, and effectively targeting adaptive practices and technologies across the full scope of the food system, are central to improving global food security in a changing climate,” Holdren added.