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Giving Compass' Take:
• Ryan Hobert and Christine Negra unpack the ways in which climate change threatens food security and the agricultural practices that can be used to fight climate change.
• What role can you play in addressing food security? Which communities are in most need of support?
• This article is part of our Climate Justice collection. Read more about climate justice, and learn what you can do to help.
Food security — the reliable access to safe, affordable, and nutritious food — is inextricably linked to a predictable climate and healthy ecosystems. Climate change and associated severe weather, droughts, fires, pests, and diseases are already threatening the production of food around the world. Unless we act decisively, these problems will worsen, the poorest and most vulnerable will suffer disproportionately, and instability will increase. Ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021, we look at a few solutions for creating more climate-resilient food systems and a healthier planet.
Glaring new evidence of climate change’s impact on humanity’s ability to produce plentiful and nutritious food has emerged on multiple continents this summer. Swarms of locusts — provoked by unusually heavy rains — are destroying crops across large swaths of East Africa and Southwest Asia, disrupting food supplies. As flooding strains Chinese agriculture, the government is pursuing food security by clamping down on food waste. Heat and blazing fires across the Western U.S. are threatening crops and livestock, and a derecho storm devastated millions of acres of corn and soybean production in the Midwest. Blistering heat and severe drought across France have wreaked havoc on agricultural production and prompted farmers to call on the government for help.
Climate change is the common thread, either triggering or worsening these horrifying conditions and leading to devastating impacts on food availability, livelihoods, and human health. As the world experiences increasingly severe climate impacts on agricultural production, many of our food systems are being pushed to the breaking point. In short, climate change is putting food production at risk.
Yield growth for wheat, maize, and other crops has been declining in many countries due to extreme heat, severe weather, and droughts. By some estimates, in the absence of effective adaptation, global yields could decline by up to 30 percent by 2050. Countries that are already grappling with conflict, pollution, deforestation, and other challenges are likely to suffer the brunt of these impacts. The 2 billion people already without access to sufficient food, including smallholder farmers and other people living in poverty, will be hit hardest.
In addition to being affected by the impacts of climate change, agriculture is a major contributor — and a potential solution — to climate change.
The good news is that a number of sustainable practices offer significant climate mitigation opportunities, some of which will also help farmers build resilience against future environmental and economic shocks:
- Reducing food loss and waste
- Better soil management
- Restoring degraded farmland