Risks of climate change to food security

According to the World Bank report, poverty and hunger, emphasized on temporal dynamics of food insecurity in 1986. Food security became a major issue when spectrum spanned from individual to global level in mid-1990s. In 1996, World Food Summit adopted further modifications in context of food security. 

Risks of climate change to food security

Cross talk on food security was originated in mid-1970s at forum of World Food Conference (1974) held on international food problems at a time of global food crisis. Food security was first coined by World Food Summit (1974) as “Availability at all times of adequate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices”.

Since past few decades climate change act as major threat to food security. Climate change is defined as a long term changes in weather (intense rainfall, annual average temperature or precipitation) that usually prevail over decades or centuries and may changes weather patterns over long term.

Climate Change is giving birth to several disastrous events particularly rise in sea level in coastal zones with significant effect on livelihood and food security. Remote changes in climatic pattern has detrimental effect on food security. It acts as hunger risk multiplier exacerbating up to 20%.

It effects all dimensions of food security in complex ways. Climate change is leading to drought and floods, with negative consequences on food security. It also complicate food logistics and distribution in multiple ways such as low crop yield and increase in food prices. Number of malnourished children in remote countries are also increasing day by day.

The domains of food security are food production, food access and utilization. The first one describes the production of staple crops and the changes in climate (fluctuation in temperature and rainfall) directly correlate with this pillar of food security by reducing crop quality and quantity.

When we discuss about second pillar, it targets most vulnerable community of society as climate change increase the prices of major crops. Climate-related risks affect calorie intake, particularly in areas where chronic food insecurity is already a significant problem.

Changing climatic also creating a vicious cycle of disease and hunger. Malnutrition is prevailing as a result of climate change through related impacts on food security, dietary diversity, care practices and health.

“Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”

United Nations emerge as pioneer to create awareness about threats of climate change. They made the nations realized that nobody remain untouched from hazards of climate change. Broadly speaking melting of sea ice, thawing permafrost, killing off coral reefs in oceans leading to heat waves, heavy rains and mega disasters are all the major outcomes of climate change.

In past some of extreme weather events i.e. killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in Australia, and deadly floods in Pakistan are all due to changing weather patterns. At agriculture side, Climate change have resulted in tremendous reduction of global wheat, rice and maize productions. The State of Food Insecurity in world (SOFI) reported that 793 million people are undernourished.

Extreme weather disasters such as droughts, floods and storms have an adverse effects and have potential to destroy crops, critical infrastructure, and key community assets on larger scale. Poverty have been increased over time as a consequence of food insecurity.

It does not only pose threat to crop yield but also disturb aquatic life. Fish catches in some areas of tropics were projected to fall down 40% to 60% globally. Impacts on livestock systems will be mediated through reduced feed quantity and quality, changes in pest and disease prevalence, and direct impairment of production due to physiological stress.

Growth and meat, egg and milk yield and quality decrease as temperatures go beyond 30 °C due to reduced feed intake. Climate change pose serious threat to food scarcity, global food stocks and to survival of humanity.

Research that informs action is needed to address urgent climate risks to food security and global challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including agriculture.

Research should address both incremental changes in production systems (e.g. constant attention to new varieties, different agronomic practices) as well as transformative changes such as exiting from agricultural livelihoods, changing diets and implementation of widespread payments for environmental services and carbon markets.

Four immediate challenges which needs urgent attentions in this context are: changing the research culture to become more action-oriented; identifying climate-smart options for action; addressing social inequality in action agenda; and addressing mitigation challenge.

This article is collectively authored by Shaniza Latif 1, Rahil Shahzad 2, Shakra Jamil 2. 1. Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, University of Agriculture Faisalabad 2. Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute, AARI Faisalabad.