In a world where climate variability and human-induced climate change threaten global progress towards a food secure future, sustained food production combined with trade and well-functioning markets will play a key role in making the world’s interlinked food systems resilient to climate-related shocks and disruptions. While climate change affects food security directly through changes in agricultural production, incomes, and prices, climate also influences global food-system activities, including food processing, packaging, transportation, storage, waste, and consumption. Markets and trade are at the center of this global food system, enabling the movement of food from producers to consumers, and from countries with a surplus to those with a deficit. Improving how markets and trade perform for food insecure communities is thus a key way we can adapt to the effects of climate change on the food system now and in the coming decades.
In a recent report published by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), we reported on our findings that markets and trade are critically important to ensuring food security, and that the social, economic, and political context in which climate change occurs strongly influences food security outcomes. We know that the exposure, sensitivity, and the adaptive capacity of future societies will differ in many respects from today, and therefore used a series of integrated climate, biophysical and economic models to examine how changes in climate can affect future food security. Because the socioeconomic setting in which climate analyses are situated can strongly influence the outcomes of these analyses, the models incorporated key assumptions about non-climate factors including technological advancements, demographic change, and economic growth. Trade policy needs to be considered within the context of both changing economic conditions as well as a changing climate.
Molly E Brown