Research for Food Security in a Changing Climate Theme Month
Highlighting and discussing the integral role of research in adapting to and mitigating against a changing climate.
Projected Impacts of Climate Change on Food Security
Right now, approximately one out of every 11 people on Earth are undernourished. This number is expected to increase as the global population expands from 7.9 billion to a predicted 8.5 billion in 2030. The growing demand for food will require an increase in agricultural production, which is already a challenging undertaking. It is projected that in order to keep up with demand, global agricultural production will require a 70% increase by 2050.
The climate crisis is expected to exacerbate this challenge; it is leading to increased crop failures, water insecurity, depletion of natural resources and more frequent and extreme weather events. Global temperatures are projected to increase by 1-2 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels by 2050. For every 1 degree Celsius increase, the global yields of the three major cereals — rice, wheat and maize — are expected to decrease by 3-7% (3% for rice, 6% for wheat and over 7% for maize).
The world’s rural poor, who depend on agriculture for their food and livelihood, and the smallholder farmers, who help to feed them, will be hardest hit. Projections suggest that a 1.5 degree Celsius increase could result in an additional 530-550 million undernourished people, while a 2 degrees Celsius increase could result in an additional 540-590 million. In addition, a deteriorating natural resource base reduces the resilience of the production system to climate variability and depresses future productivity.
Meeting the Demand
The challenge of meeting the food demands requires agriculture to keep up with an expanding world population while decreasing its contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural research developed with climate adaptation and the needs of smallholder farmers at the forefront has the power to address demands. This will require ambitious investment in climate-smart agriculture, including research to increase efficiency of inputs, increase yield and nutritional content, and improve pest and disease resistance and surveillance methods, as well as engagement with smallholder farmers, the ultimate users of these innovations.
The role of research in addressing food security demands related to climate change has been previewed in the U.S. Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS) Research Annex and will be expanded on in the forthcoming Global Food Security Research Strategy.