Press Release on CLCF Food Security and Climate Change Report

Food security effects of Climate Change will be felt in as little as 10 years says new report

The UK-based Centre for Low Carbon Futures has published research showing that within the next 10 years large parts of Asia can expect an increased risk of more severe droughts which will impact regional and possibly even global food security. The report highlights China, Pakistan and Turkey as the most seriously affected major producers of wheat and maize and urges policymakers to focus attention on climate change adaptation to avert an imminent food crisis.

On average, across Asia, droughts lasting longer than three months will be more than twice as severe in terms of their soil moisture deficit compared to the 1990-2005 period. 

The study ‘Food Security: Near future projections of the impact of drought in Asia’ was led by Professor Piers Forster from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds who is also a lead author on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that have directly informed UN climate negotiations of the latest science.  This study was based on climate change projections from 12 leading climate modelling centres around the world and finds clear signals of climate change emerging within the next 10 years.

Explaining the importance of this new research Jon Price, Director of the Centre for Low Carbon Futures said we commissioned this new study because until now most projections on food security and drought have been to the 2050’s - far out of range for most policy makers to contemplate. Our report projects impacts for the 2020’s. It shows in this period we will see marked increase in drought severity across much of Asia

He added: “this new work takes a very different approach to traditional 50 year timescale global scale modelling by highlighting decisions and actions that need to be addressed immediately if we are to avoid the perfect storm on the horizon. What’s new is that we are presenting evidence that drought will impact food production in the near term meaning policy makers no longer have to wait to make crucial  decisions.“

Commenting on the results of the analysis Dr Lawrence Jackson, a co-author of the report,  said: "Our work surprised us when we saw that the threat to food security was so imminent, the increased risk of severe droughts is only 10 years away for China and India. These are the world’s largest populations and food producers; and, as such, this poses a real threat to food security".

A focus on climate change adaptation as well as mitigation required

Climate change mitigation is insufficient on its own to safeguard food production with such challenging increases in drought severity in the next 10 years. The report argues that it will be the ability of this region to adapt to climate change and the associated threat to agricultural production which will help reduce future crop losses in the drought years.

Of the major producers of wheat and maize, China was found to be relatively well placed to adapt to climate change and manage the threat to food security. However there is no room for complacency as adaptation demands informed and timely actions from today’s policymakers combined with the local will to change farming practices and invest in new technology.

Whilst India was projected to experience one of the smaller increases in drought risk, its challenging infrastructure means it less able to adapt. Since India is the world's second largest producer of wheat and the seventh largest producer of maize this could impact on global availability of these key crops. The adaptive capacities of other major producers including the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, were also found to be insufficient.

 “The message for policymakers is clear” said Professor Forster: “the threat to food production in Asia from drought risk brought on by climate change could be felt in the next 10-15 years. Given the slow rate of progress achieved over the 20 years up to the recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), we cannot wait for actions to address the changes in the physical climate if we want to feed the growing Asian population and limit impact on global food security. Immediate actions are needed to achieve more sustainable use of water supplies and enhance adaptive capacity”


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