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Food system scenarios: exploring global/local linkages

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T.E. Downing
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The first generation of climate impact assessments were led by scenarios of climate change predicted over time. In recent years, the indeterminate nature of complex systems, such as interactions between environment and human behaviour, has been increasingly recognised. This realisation has led to an increased use of scenarios to express future stories.There are currently two modes of scenario construction; the ‘top down’ approach constructed at a generalised and global level, and the ‘bottom up’ approach focusing on local level dynamics. The two modes should not be opposites, but niether do they necessarily fit together.Four challenges must be met to make progress in scenario methodology construction: encompassing sensitivity to environmental change and adaptive capacity in global scenariosconsistency in recognising vulnerability as a phenomenon at all scaleslinkages can be made between the global and the local where livelihood groups and systems operatedeveloping methods of stakeholder participation is essentialThis working paper draws together four main conclusions in reviewing food system scenarios:the basis for developing a useful and realistic set of scenarios is the conceptual framework that guides the selection of indicatorsaggregation of indicators is a contentious area of vulnerability assessment requiring attention. The authors prefer multi-attribute profiles such as food availability (physical), food access (economics), reliability (nutrition and quality) and distribution (spatial and temporal)participation of stakeholders in developing scenarios more representative at a local scale should be supportedutilising livelihood systems as the intermediary between global driving forces and local vulnerability conditions.