Report urges commitment to addressing global food security

The Chicago Council report calls on U.S. government to integrate climate change into global food security strategy.

U.S. government action can curb the risks climate change poses to global food security, according to a new report (PDF) released May 22 by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Building on the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and National Climate Assessment, The Chicago Council's study explains how higher temperatures, changes in rainfall and natural disasters caused by climate change could undermine food production and put food supplies at risk. In total, climate change could reduce food production growth by 2% each decade for the rest of this century, the council said.

The report calls on the U.S. government to integrate climate change adaptation into its global food security strategy. Recommendations include:

* Passing legislation for a long-term global food and nutrition security strategy.

* Increasing funding for agricultural research on climate change adaptation. Research priorities should include improving crop and livestock tolerance to higher temperatures and volatile weather, combating pests and disease and reducing food waste.

* Collecting better data and making information on weather more widely available to farmers. There are significant global data gaps right now on weather; water availability, quality and future requirements; crop performance; land use, and consumer preferences.

* Increasing funding for partnerships between U.S. universities and universities and research institutions in low-income countries, to train the next generation of agricultural leaders.

* Advancing international action through urging that food security be addressed through the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

"As a global leader in agriculture, the U.S. should act now," former U.S. secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman, a co-chair of the study, said. "It has much to gain by doing so: The continued productivity of the U.S. farm sector, strong international agricultural markets, more stable societies and demonstration of its national commitment to food and nutrition security for the world's people."

A bipartisan group of scientific, business, and policy leaders led by Glickman and Doug Bereuter, president emeritus of The Asia Foundation, have endorsed the report's recommendations. Gerald C. Nelson, a leading expert on climate change and food security, was the principal author.

"History has shown that with adequate resources and support, agriculture can meet growing production demands and adapt to some changes in climate, but greater emphasis on adaptation must begin now," Bereuter said.

The U.S. global food security strategy is strong, the study finds, because it focuses on small-scale farmers in developing countries, whose productivity must be increased if the world is to raise food production by 60% by 2050. However, these efforts do not do enough to counteract the effects of climate change.

More than 500 policymakers, corporate executives, scientists and senior leaders from international and nongovernmental organizations are gathered to discuss the report, "Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate," at the council's Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington, D.C.

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