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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Climate change putting world’s food security at risk

Intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality and climate change are putting mankind’s future ability to feed itself at risk, according to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Agriculture "holds the key" to eradicating food insecurity  ©shutterstock
Agriculture "holds the key" to eradicating food insecurity ©shutterstock

The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges shows that climate change is affecting food-insecure regions disproportionately, jeopardising agricultural systems that they depend on to survive.

With the world’s population expected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050, agricultural demand is predicted to increase by 50%, leading to more intense competition for natural resources, and further exacerbating food insecurity.

FAO director-general, José Graziano da Silva, said: “The vast majority of the extremely poor and hungry depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. They are the most vulnerable to the impacts of global warming and an unstable climate."

"Agriculture holds the key to solving two of the greatest problems now facing humanity, eradicating poverty and hunger, and contributing to maintaining the stable climatic conditions in which civilisation can thrive.”

There has been a significant reduction in extreme poverty since the 1990s, however there are almost 800 million people who are chronically hungry, and two billion suffer micronutrient deficiencies, according to the report.

It reveals that under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, some 653 million individuals would still be undernourished in 2030 – the year that the UN’s new sustainable development goals have targeted the eradication of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.

However it adds that the planet’s food systems are capable of producing enough food, in a sustainable way, but unlocking that potential will require ‘major transformations’, addressing both climate change and food insecurity.

The report states: “Climate change’s impact on global food security will relate not just to food supply but also to food quality, access and utilisation and the stability of food security.

“The adoption of sustainable land, water, fisheries and forestry management practices by smallholders will be crucial to efforts at adapting to climate change, eradicating global poverty and ending hunger.

“However, in order to encourage adoption, improvements will also be necessary in infrastructure, extension, climate information, access to credit and social insurance.”

Expanded cooperation between countries to improve access to finance, investment, markets and technology, policy support and capacity development will be required to achieve this, it concludes.