Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 348–361 | Cite as

The vulnerability of the US food system to climate change

Article

Abstract

The climate change vulnerability of a food system is a function of the exposure of the system to specific climate effects, the sensitivity of the system to those effects, and the capacity of the system adapt to those effects in order to maintain system integrity. A synthesis of recent literature conducted to explore the vulnerability of the US food system to climate change suggests that the interaction between regional climate change effects and the geographic specialization and concentration of agricultural production in the USA increases the vulnerability of the US food system to climate change. Vegetable and fruit production in the Pacific states are particularly sensitive to reduced water supplies, warmer winters, and more variable spring weather. Grain production in the Great Plains and the Midwest is sensitive to more variable weather, warmer winters, heat wave, and hot summer nights and flooding caused by more frequent heavy rains. The concentration of beef, pork, and poultry production in confined animal feeding operations located in the southern Great Plains and the Southeast is particularly sensitive to increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather and interruptions in feed, water, and power supplies associated with interactions between land, water, and energy use that amplify climate change effects. There is evidence that climate change is already causing disruptions throughout the US food system. Farmers and ranchers in the US report that increased weather variability and more frequent and intense weather extremes have increased the costs and complexity of food production. Businesses operating in the US agricultural supply, processing, distribution, and retailing sectors are actively managing supply networks to reduce disruptions associated with climate change effects. Food systems that rely on external or distant resources and specialized production, supply, and marketing chains appear to be particularly vulnerable to global environmental change. These characteristics, widely recognized as critical challenges to the sustainability of the US food system, take on new importance as barriers to climate resilience.

Keywords

Climate change Vulnerability Agricultural production Food systems Adaptive capacity Resilience 

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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Local Food Research Center, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture ProjectAshevilleUSA

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