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Extreme climate events increase risk of global food insecurity and adaptation needs

Abstract

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency, intensity and spatial extent of extreme climate events, and thus is a key concern for food production. However, food insecurity is usually analysed under a mean climate change state. Here we combine crop modelling and climate scenarios to estimate the effects of extreme climate events on future food insecurity. Relative to median-level climate change, we find that an additional 20–36% and 11–33% population may face hunger by 2050 under a once-per-100-yr extreme climate event under high and low emission scenarios, respectively. In some affected regions, such as South Asia, the amount of food required to offset such an effect is triple the region’s current food reserves. Better-targeted food reserves and other adaptation measures could help fill the consumption gap in the face of extreme climate variability.

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Fig. 1: Probability distributions of per capita food consumption and risk of hunger under two climate pathways.
Fig. 2: Population at risk of hunger.
Fig. 3: Regional probability distribution of crop yields, agricultural price, per capita food consumption and the risk of hunger.
Fig. 4: Food requirements under extreme climate change.

Data availability

The data used in the study are available at the Harvard Dataverse Repository: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/KW2UEP

Code availability

The code used in the study is available at the Harvard Dataverse Repository: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/KW2UEP

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund (JPMEERF20202002, JPMEERF20211001 and JPMEERF20182001) of the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency of Japan, Sumitomo Foundation and the Ritsumeikan Global Innovation Research Organization (R-GIRO), Ritsumeikan University.

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Authors

Contributions

T.H., G.S., S.F., K.T. and T.M. designed the research. T.H. created figures and wrote the draft of the paper. G.S. performed the crop model experiments. T.H. and S.F. performed the economic model experiments and analysed the data. All authors discussed the results. T.H., G.S., S.F., K.T. and Y.H. contributed to writing the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tomoko Hasegawa.

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Peer review information Nature Food thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Notes 1–10, Figs. 1–17, Tables 1–5 and References.

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Hasegawa, T., Sakurai, G., Fujimori, S. et al. Extreme climate events increase risk of global food insecurity and adaptation needs. Nat Food 2, 587–595 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00335-4

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