Food Shocks – Scientists Gather to Discuss the Dangers of an Agriculture/Climate Change Clash

Monday, 15 February 2016 - 11:02AM
Monday, 15 February 2016 - 11:02AM
Food Shocks – Scientists Gather to Discuss the Dangers of an Agriculture/Climate Change Clash
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What if multiple climate-change related disasters struck simultaneously on a global scale?

No, this isn't a pitch for a climate-apocalypse disaster film (you're safe this time Jake Gyllenhaal). This is a warning from researchers across the globe who are worried about the effects of coinciding natural disasters on the global food market. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) currently taking place in Washington DC from February 11-15, researchers are addressing concerns about climate-change caused "food shocks."

Food shocks are simultaneous extreme weather events that would greatly affect the global food system, especially if they were to hit different breadbaskets at the same time. The AAAS conference website proposes, "what if severe drought in the U.S. Midwest drives down the soy and maize harvest at the same time that a record-breaking heat wave in Europe bakes the continent's wheat crop? Or, if agricultural reform in China leads to a decrease in rice production at the same time Bangladesh has floods, how badly would prices and availability be affected?"

With the global market that we now live in, disasters on the opposite sides of the world would have a direct impact on availability and prices of food across the globe. And when the disasters strike at the same time, these food shocks would cause ripple effects on commodity exports and food markets, as well as curb efforts to combat and eliminate world hunger.
At the AAAS 2016 meeting, researchers from the UK and USA are discussing the impact of new research suggesting that food shocks are increasingly likely to occur. Professor Tim Benton, Champion of the UK's Global Food Security Programme warned of the looming potential for such an event...
Opening quote
"Crop yields and climate data show us that the global food system is at increased risk as extreme weather events are as much as three times more likely to happen as a result of climate change by mid-century."
Closing quote

Researchers attending the meeting will be addressing the risks to the global food market and outlining recommendations to protect against this threat to our food supply. 

- Kirsty Lewis, Applied Climate Science Team Leader at the UK's Met Office, will discuss how our understanding of the geography of food production interacts with meteorology to increase the threat of food production in vulnerable climates and the relationship between the global food system and current El Nino-driven weather patterns. 

- Joshua Elliot from the Computation Institute of the University of Chicago will present findings on projects mapping the effects of climate change on crops around the world, evidence for increasing risk to global agriculture from climate change-caused extreme events, and the risk of a 21st century Dustbowl-like drought to the US Midwest and central plains. 

-Professor Tim Benton will discuss recommendations and ways in which we can develop resilience against food shocks. 
The AAAS is not the only organization concerned about threats to our food production. The World Bank recently released "The Future of Food: Shaping a Climate-Smart Global Food System." In this pamphlet, they state that agriculture and land use changes contribute 25 percent of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. They advocate for climate-smart agriculture to lead to higher agriculture productivity, increased resilience to climate change, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The pamphlet outlines efforts to use the land more efficiently and sustainably, such as agroforestry in Africa and solar powered irrigation in the Middle East, as well as efforts to genetically engineer drought-resistant plants. 

If we can use the research by the AAAS annual meeting to further our understanding of climate change's effects on the global food market and follow suggestions for more sustainable and resilient agriculture, we may be able to lessen the potentially devastating effects of the impending food shocks, subsequently preventing our world from turning into something like a dystopia we all so often see on the big screen.

More information on the AAAS Conference can be found here
Science News