How Does a 2⁰C Increase in Global Temperature Impact Food Security?

Climate change, food security821 million people.

Nearly 821 million people across the world are food insecure, according to the 2018 State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This means that they do not have adequate access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy life. Evidence indicates that this number will likely increase if the global atmospheric temperature continues to rise.

The Guardian recently reported on a study by the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A on the impacts of allowable temperature rise of 1.5⁰C and 2⁰C. It found that vulnerability to food insecurity increases more at 2°C global warming than at 1.5°C, due to climate-induced drought and precipitation changes. Of all natural hazards, the SOFI report highlights that “floods, droughts and tropical storms affect food production the most. Drought causes more than 80 percent of the total damage and losses in agriculture.”

Maximum temperature, the percentage of days with extreme daily temperatures, the number of consecutive dry days, and the maximum rainfall in a 5-day period were measured to reach temperature impact conclusions. At a 2°C warmer world, the land areas mostly warm by more than 2°C. In some regions, like North America, China, and Europe, the daily high temperature increases could be double that of the globe on average. Southern Africa, the Mediterranean, Australia and northeast South America are projected to have increased dry spell lengths. Rainfall is projected to increase over many regions including parts of southeast Asia, northern Australia and the east coast of the

The impacts on food security at an increase of 1.5°C global temperature are smaller than at 2°C. Drought and flooding are more extreme at an increase in global temperature of 2°C. The SOFI report noted the number of extreme climate-related disasters has doubled since the early 1990s. These disasters harm agricultural productivity contributing to shortfalls in food availability, hiked up food prices, and the loss of income reducing people’s access to food.

Why are these temperatures important? The Paris Agreement’s goal is to keep the global temperature rise this century “well below 2⁰C” above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5⁰C. This goal is outlined in Art 2 of the PA and aligns with the UNFCCC’s Art 2 objective to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Current IPCC reports model proposed mitigation pathways on limiting warming to 2°C. In early October, the IPCC will publish a report that remodels needed mitigation outcomes based on a 1.5°C limit. FAO has sounded the alarm for why less warming is critical to our food security and underscored why this new IPCC report is needed.  At COP24, Parties will be faced with this new evidence as they negotiate the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement.