Climate Change and the Future of Food
A draft Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report leaked last week concludes that climate change poses dramatic risks for the global food supply. Unlike previous reports, the draft report concludes that while rising mean global temperatures could have some beneficial effects on crops, overall global production will likely decline by as much as 2 percent per decade for the rest of the century as a result of climate change. Meanwhile, global demand is expected to increase by as much as 14 percent per decade over the same period as global population grows to an estimated 9.6 billion people by 2050.
The draft report is not expected to be published until March, and IPCC spokesperson Jonathan Lynn told the New York Times that the report is “a work in progress” and declined further comment, noting that “We don’t have anything to say about the contents. It’s likely to change.”
Regardless of future revisions, if the underlying estimates are correct the findings would suggest that recent trends in global prices—a generalized upward trend with dramatic variability (shocks) in short-term prices—will continue. It also suggests that global inequality in access to food will intensify, as the regions most negatively affected by climate change—low-lying island states and coastal regions, the tropics, and (in particular) much of Africa—are the regions most unable to adapt. Increases in productivity would likely be confined to more northern and southern temperate regions, particularly in Russia and Canada.