Knowledge for better food systems

Climate Change, food security and the U.S. Food System

This report by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) represents a consensus of more than 30 authors from 19 institutions across four countries. The report brings together modelling and forecasting research on climate change to the year 2100, and explores how these changes will affect food and agricultural systems worldwide, and in particular in the US.

The report focuses on the implications of climate change for global and regional economies and food security. Following an introductory chapter (chapter 1), the report begins by defining key concepts such as food security and climate change (chapter 2), before outlining the key projections and predictions of climate, greenhouse-gas and socioeconomic change modelling (chapter 3). In chapter 4, it explores the results of modelling the effects of climate change on food and agriculture on global and regional economies. Chapters 5-7 then delve deeper into the implications of climate change for the influences, adaptation and measurement of, respectively: food availability and stability, food access and stability, and food utilisation and stability. In the final chapter, the report places the issues discussed into a US-specific context, considering: the role of the US in the global food system; the effects of climate change on US agriculture; and how the US will be affected and will have to respond to changes at a global level.

The report’s key findings and conclusions are:

  • Climate change is likely to impact food security at local, regional and global levels, by disrupting availability, access and effective utilisation of food. Global food insecurity is likely to affect food producers and consumers in the US.
  • A worsening of climate change (in both speed and magnitude) would lead to greater risks to food security, not just to agricultural production but to other crucial parts of the supply chain.
  • It is possible to reduce the negative effects of climate change on food security if effective adaptation measures are put into place at the many identifiable “food-security intervention” points, but there are likely to be socio-economic barriers to some such measures.
  • Other large-scale changes taking place alongside climate change, such as environmental degradation must be considered in climate change projections if they are to be accurate.

Citation                                                       

Brown, M.E., Antle, J.M., Backlund, P., Carr, E.R., Easterling, W.E., Walsh, M.K., Ammann, C., Attavanich, W., Barrett, C.B., Bellemare, M.F., Dancheck, V., Funk, C., Grace, K., Ingram, J.S.I., Jiang, H., Maletta, H., Mata, T., Murray, A., Ngugi, M., Ojima, D., O’Neill, B. and Tebaldi, C. (2015). Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System.

Read the full report here and see further coverage here.

You can find related resources in the Research Library categories on Climate Change: Impacts and Adaptation, Food Security and Nutrition and Governance and Policy and keyword categories: Adaptation policies and Climate trends/projections.

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North America

North America is the northern subcontinent of the Americas covering about 16.5% of the Earth's land area. This large continent has a range of climates spanning Greenland’s permanent ice sheet and the dry deserts of Arizona. Both Canada and the USA are major food producers and some of the largest food exporters in the world. Industrial farms are the norm in North America, with high yields relative to other regions and only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.

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