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Climate change and food security: risks and responses

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The effects of climate change on agricultural systems and food and nutrition security are already severe and widespread. Almost 800 million people are chronically undernourished, and population and wealth growth are set to increase demand for food and feed in the near future. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimate that food production will have to increase by 60% in the coming decades to accommodate this increased demand, and with vulnerable smallholder farmers providing food for an estimated 2 billion people, climate change poses a significant risk to fulfilling this demand. In response to these concerns, the FAO have produced this detailed report assessing the risks of and responses to climate change in the context of agriculture, food security and nutrition. The report brings together the latest scientific knowledge and evidence from the IPCC and the FAO’s own experience to provide a comprehensive overview of the cascading impacts of climate change on food security and nutrition.The report presents ways to adapt and build resilience, and highlights the importance of immediate action to eliminate hunger, enable agricultural sectors to adapt to climate change, and to mitigate climate change to minimise impacts on food and nutrition security. It is hoped that in doing so, this report can raise awareness of problems already impacting the most vulnerable populations, describe precise pathways by which climate change will impact food security (so as to identify the range of actions needed to address these impacts), and to fuel discussion on how to operationalise adaptation of agriculture and food systems. The first part of the report summarises the main direct and indirect effects of climate change relevant to agriculture, livelihoods, and food security. This chapter discusses impacts on five agro-ecosystems: crops, livestock and pastoral systems, forests, fisheries and aquaculture systems, and genetic resources. Also discussed are the economic and social consequences, the impact of climate change on food security and nutrition, and the role that vulnerability plays in exacerbating such insecurities. This chapter concludes that: The first and most impacted are the most vulnerable populations, primarily the poor whose livelihoods depend on agriculture in areas most vulnerable to climate change. Reducing vulnerabilities is key to reducing final impacts on food security and nutrition, and also to reduce long-term impacts The first and main impact of climate change on food security and nutrition will be through reduced access and stability for the most vulnerable. The second part of the report reflects on how reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience can reduce the overall negative impacts of climate change on production, livelihoods, and food security and nutrition, and examines various means to achieve these objectives. Topics discussed include: increasing the resilience of livelihoods through social protection strategies, gender-related vulnerabilities, and disaster risk reduction; building resilience of agricultural systems; managing genetic resources; investing in agricultural development; investing in systems to assess risks, vulnerabilities, and adaptation options; and enabling adaptation through policies and institutions. The chapter concludes that integrated, multi-scale, and gender-sensitive strategies are needed that incorporate cross-sectoral cooperation, investment, and policies. Such strategies should be informed by risk and vulnerability assessments, and directed by regular monitoring. Some medium- and long-term responses will need immediate enabling action and implementation of investments to maximise adaptation efficacy, especially those investments that require longer time frames to be developed, such as livestock breeding, seed multiplication, R&D, and knowledge transfer.