January 21, 2016

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Drought, famine, and starvation -- brought to you by climate change from here: Policymakers on Capitol Hill got a dire warning that climate change threatens food production, safety and affordability. That stark message came in a briefing by the American Meteorological Society to congressional staff members, climate scientists and federal regulators that linked climate change to a host of troubling scenarios involving worldwide food availability. Wednesday's briefing drew on a peer-reviewed study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture released during the Paris Climate Conference last month. That report, "Climate Change, Global Food Security and the U.S. Food System," concluded that the effects of climate change on food will strike urban and rural populations in wealthy and poor nations alike. While the threat depends on many factors, its impact will increase by mid-century, according to the report. Under the least-optimistic scenario––based on high carbon emissions and low international cooperation to combat climate change––agricultural yields could fall by as much as 15 percent, and food prices could rise more than 30 percent by 2050. "Climate change puts the world's food security at risk through both direct and indirect factors," said Margaret Walsh, an ecologist in USDA's Climate Change Program Office and one of the authors the report. Widespread drought caused by climate change could decrease crop production, Walsh told InsideClimate News. At the same time, sea level rise could impact cargo ships' access to docks for importing and exporting food. "There are many, complex factors that have to be considered when assessing the threat to food security," Walsh said.

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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