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The impact of climate change on costs of food and people exposed to hunger at subnational scale

Published by the Postdam Institute in October 2015 and funded by the World Bank, this study analyses climate change impacts on agriculture and potential implications for the occurrence of hunger under different socioeconomic scenarios for 2030, focusing on the world regions most affected by poverty today: the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Sub‐Saharan Africa. It uses a spatially explicit, agroeconomic land‐use model to assess agricultural vulnerability to climate change. Results indicate that while average yields decrease with climate change in all focus regions, the impact on the costs of food is very diverse. Costs of food increase most in the Middle East and North Africa, where available agricultural land is already fully utilized and options to import food are limited. The increase is least in Sub‐Saharan Africa, since production there can be shifted to areas which are only marginally affected by climate change and imports from other regions increase. South Asia and Sub‐Saharan Africa can partly adapt to climate change by modifying trade and expanding agricultural land. In the Middle East and North Africa, almost the entire population is affected by increasing costs of food but the share of people vulnerable to hunger is relatively low, due to relatively strong economic development in these projections. In Sub‐Saharan Africa, the vulnerability to hunger will persist, but increases in costs of food are moderate. While in South Asia a high share of the population suffers from increases in costs of food and is exposed to hunger, only a negligible number of people will be exposed at extreme levels. Independent of the region, the impacts of climate change are less severe in a richer and more globalized world. Adverse climate impacts on the costs of food could be moderated by promoting technological progress in agriculture. Improving market access would be advantageous for farmers, providing the opportunity to profitably increase production in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in South Asia, but may lead to increasing costs of food for consumers. In the long‐term perspective until 2080, the consequences of climate change will become even more severe: while in 2030 56% of the global population may face increasing costs of food in a poor and fragmented world, in 2080 the proportion will rise to 73%.

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Sarah Cummings
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16 November 2015

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