Modifying the food system to avoid climate risks


Editor’s Note: The United Nations Climate Change Conference underway in Glasgow, UK, could prompt countries to make concerted efforts to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. How will countries accelerate renewable energy production and strengthen natural systems to fight climate change? Five experts share their views on the issue with China Daily:


The global food system faces major risks and threats, including climate change, increasingly frequent extreme weather events, degradation and depletion of natural resources such as water and soil, loss of biodiversity , the emergence of new diseases, bottlenecks and trade disruptions, macroeconomic shocks and conflicts.

Yet climate change is the greatest risk to the food system, and the growing climate crisis is closely linked to the depletion of natural resources and loss of biodiversity, which together pose growing challenges.

These multiple threats and their complex and interrelated effects can severely disrupt the food system, causing massive economic losses, dislocation of food supply chains and loss of well-being for producers, consumers and other actors in the food system. . Smallholder farmers, rural migrants, women, youth, children, low-income people and other disadvantaged groups, especially in developing countries, are particularly vulnerable to these threats and effects. Worse, they have a low capacity to adapt.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated food insecurity and malnutrition around the world. Data and reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations show that between 720 million and 811 million people worldwide faced hunger in 2020, while more than half of of these were in Asia and more than a third in Africa. Millions of children under 5 suffer from stunting (149.2 million, 22%), wasting (45.4 million, 6.7%) or overweight (38.9 million, 5, 7%), especially in Africa and Asia. And overweight and obesity continued to rise in rich and poor countries alike.

In addition, 3 billion people worldwide could not afford a healthy diet in 2019, and their numbers increased in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean between 2017 and 2019.

According to the 2021 report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, over the coming decades, all regions are likely to face increased and intensified effects of climate change, and with a 2 degree Celsius increase in global temperature, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerances for agriculture and human health. Studies also indicate that by 2050, climate change will lead to a 3.2% per capita reduction in global food availability, 4.0% in fruit and vegetable consumption and 0.7% in consumption. of red meat.

In addition, an additional 183 million people will be at risk of starvation compared to a “no climate change” scenario by 2050. The huge uncertainties surrounding the impacts of climate change and the uncertain potential of various mitigation and adaptation strategies in the world make the risk of climate change. on the even more complex global food system.

The direct impacts of climate change on agricultural productivity occur through changes in average climate, climate variability and extreme weather events, while the indirect impacts come from pests and diseases, water availability and other factors.

It is predicted that each 1 ° C increase in global average temperature would reduce, on average, the world yield of wheat by 6.0 percent, rice by 3.2 percent, maize by 7.4 percent and 3.1 percent soybean without carbon dioxide fertilization, efficient adaptation and genetics. improvement.

A decline in agricultural productivity will lead to short-term variability in the food supply with reduced food availability.

In addition to agricultural production, food safety and quality, food prices and food-related health have also been affected by climate change, due to declining incomes, increased risks and risks. market disruptions.

And the significant negative effects of climate change are linked to higher levels of warming at lower latitudes where developing countries are concentrated and the adaptive capacity of people, especially poor rural households, is low due to poverty. and weak social protection systems.

To address, and even prevent, climate-induced risks to food security and nutrition, it is crucial to make the food system healthier, more efficient, resilient, inclusive and sustainable. Innovations and changes in technologies, policies, institutions and behaviors are essential to promote this transformation, especially in developing countries and emerging economies.

First, win-win technologies, including yield improvement technologies (e.g. precision agriculture), conservation technologies (regenerated agriculture), nutrition technologies (biofortification), and harvesting technologies. information and data (early warning and response systems) should be supported, in order to mitigate the risks of climate change. There is a need to integrate these technologies into risk-informed and crisis-responsive social protection systems by improving risk management and early response capacities to shocks and crises.

Second, policy innovations such as emissions-intensive food taxation, investment in rural infrastructure and irrigation / drainage, granting of subsidies and support to establish and expand national food systems. catastrophe insurance and reinsurance, as well as the reorientation of research and development towards climate-smart agrifood. should be encouraged to make the food system more resilient.

Policies and programs are urgently needed to increase agricultural productivity, strengthen smallholder farmers’ links to markets and ensure the full participation of young people, women and marginalized people in the growth of the sector.

Third, global governance mechanisms and institutional coordination capacity must be strengthened to match the increased scope of global action required to address and respond to risks and threats. A science platform for the food system, similar to the IPCC, can serve as a basis for transforming the food system globally, serve as a platform for constructive dialogue and provide evidence-based advice to different stakeholders, thus facilitating decision making. manufacturing.

Fourth, farmers and individual consumers should be encouraged to change their habits and switch to healthier and more sustainable diets, protect and restore ecosystems, and reduce food loss and waste. And building the resilience of producers and consumers by helping them adapt to climate change is important for preventing the risks of conflict and climate change.

Opinions do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Fan Shenggen is a fellow of the Academy of Global Food Economics and Policy, College of Economics and Management, China Agricultural University.
Meng Ting is a fellow of the Academy of World Food Economics and Policy, College of Economics and Management, China Agricultural University.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of China Daily and the China Daily website.

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