The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report at the start of the Paris climate change talks on global food security. According to their major scientific assessment, climate change is likely to impede progress on reducing undernourishment around the world in the decades ahead.
The report, entitled Climate Change, Global Food Security and the U.S. Food System, identifies the risks that climate change poses to global food security and the challenges facing farmers and consumers in adapting to changing climate conditions.
In announcing the release earlier this week, Secretary Tom Vilsack said that climate change is likely to diminish continued progress on global food security unless response measures are put into place. Without a response, he said, disruptions in agricultural production will obviously lead to constraints on local availability and price increases, among other causes.
Catholic Rural Life pays heed to this because the risks are greatest for the global poor. We recognize, however, that it is difficult for the American public who do not witness the impacts of climate change firsthand to see the urgency of action needed. Our contact with Catholic groups overseas, particularly those involved in agriculture and rural communities, causes us to be attentive and raise the sense of urgency.
Sec. Vilsack stated that global food security has improved significantly over the past six year. “The challenge we now face,” he said, “is whether we can maintain and even accelerate this progress despite the threats from climate change.”
The new report highlights the challenges to be faced and offers pathways to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change.
Food systems in the U.S. benefit from a large area of arable land, high agricultural yields, vast integrated transportation systems, and a high level of overall economic development. However, the USDA warns that changes in climate are expected to affect American consumers and producers by altering the type and price of food imports from other regions of the world, as well as by changing export demand, and transportation, processing, storage, infrastructure that enable global trade.
Effective adaptation can reduce food system vulnerability to climate change and reduce detrimental climate change effects on food security. The agricultural sector has a strong record of adapting to changing conditions. There are many opportunities to strengthen agricultural economies and bring more advanced methods of crop production to low-yielding agricultural regions. Other promising adaptations include reducing food waste through innovative packaging, expanding cold storage to lengthen shelf life, and improving transportation infrastructure to move food more rapidly to markets.