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Modelling impacts of climate change on global food security


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that nearly 900 million people on the planet are suffering from chronic hunger. This state of affairs led to the making of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in 2000, having the first goal to “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” with a target to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. However, projections of a rapidly growing population, coupled with global climate change, is expected to have significant negative impacts on food security. To investigate this prospect, a modelling framework was developed under the QUEST-GSI programme, which we have termed FEEDME (Food Estimation and Export for Diet and Malnutrition Evaluation). The model uses country-level Food Balance Sheets (FBS) to determine mean calories on a per-capita basis, and a coefficient of variation to account for the degree of inequality in access to food across national populations. Calorific values of individual food items in the FBS of countries were modified by revision of crop yields and population changes under the SRES A1B climate change and social-economic scenarios respectively for 2050, 2085 and 2100. Under a no-climate change scenario, based upon projected changes in population and agricultural land use only, results show that 31 % (2.5 billion people by 2050) of the global population is at risk of undernourishment if no adaptation or agricultural innovation is made in the intervening years. An additional 21 % (1.7 billion people) is at risk of undernourishment by 2050 when climate change is taken into account. However, the model does not account for future trends in technology, improved crop varieties or agricultural trade interventions, although it is clear that all of these adaptation strategies will need to be embraced on a global scale if society is to ensure adequate food supplies for a projected global population of greater than 9 billion people.

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This research was funded under the NERC QUEST-GSI project no. NE/E001866/1.

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Correspondence to Terence P. Dawson.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “The QUEST-GSI Project” edited by Nigel Arnell.

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Dawson, T.P., Perryman, A.H. & Osborne, T.M. Modelling impacts of climate change on global food security. Climatic Change 134, 429–440 (2016).

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  • Food Security
  • Gross Domestic Product
  • Agricultural Innovation
  • Crop Simulation Model
  • Food Balance Sheet