CIESIN Thematic Guides

Impact of Climate Change on Food Security

Recent attention to the issue of global environmental change has focused on the potential agricultural impact and global and regional food security implications. In Global Agriculture, Environment, and Hunger, Chen (1990) highlights past, present, and future linkages between global agriculture, the environment, and food security. Rosenzweig et al. (1993) predict that cereal prices and the population at risk of hunger in developing countries could increase despite adaptation by the agricultural sector in Climate Change and World Food Supply.

In "Food Security in the Changing Global Climate," Sinha, Rao, and Swaminathan (1988) argue that food supplies in smaller nations will be affected more by climate change than those of larger nations. Parry and Swaminathan (1992) also address the potential effects of climate change on world food supply and food security in "Effects of Climate Change on Food Production."

Downing (1992) assesses the impact of climate change on food security based on studies of Zimbabwe, Kenya, Senegal, and Chile in Climate Change and Vulnerable Places. The author offers an overview on global change and its vulnerability to hunger. Figure 3 provides an index of food security in developing countries; and table 3A and table 3B present data on food security, resource pressure, and risk of climate change.

Brklacich and Smit (1992) report on a study of the effects of climate change on food production in Ontario in "Implications of Changes in Climatic Averages and Variability on Food Production Opportunities in Ontario, Canada." Doubling atmospheric CO2 would contribute to longer frost-free seasons throughout the province and possibly increase year-to-year variability in precipitation. But the benefits of longer frost-free seasons would be lost during years with low precipitation, possibly endangering the food supply.

Even strategies to mitigate climate change could affect food security. Rosenberg and Scott (1993) discuss the potential impacts in "Implications of Policies to Prevent Climate Change for Future Food Security."