The chances of food shortages and extreme price hikes could triple by 2040 due to increasing extreme and erratic weather brought about by climate change, according to task force of British and American experts.
According to the new report from the Global Food Security program, the risk of a "production shock" is set to go from an event that has happened once a century to one that happens every 30 years mostly due to the impacts to farmers from floods and droughts.
"It is likely that the effects of climate change will be felt most strongly through the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts, heat waves and floods and their impact on the production and distribution of food - something we almost take for granted," said Tim Benton, who serves as the UK Champion for Global Food Security, acting as ambassador and spokesperson for matters to do with food and food security.
"This study presents a plausible scenario for how the food system might be impacted by extreme weather, alongside a series of recommendations that should help policy and business plan for the future," he said. "Action is urgently needed to understand risks better, improve the resilience of the global food system to weather-related shocks and to mitigate their impact on people."
The report is the latest to link climate change with disruptions in the food system, which is expected to see demand increase 60 percent by 2050 mostly due to increases in population as well as the numbers of people escaping poverty for the middle class.
The United Nations has warned that a warmer world will push food prices higher, trigger "hotspots of hunger" among the world's poorest people, and put a crunch on supplies of Western delicacies like fine wine.
Other scientific studies have suggested that increased greenhouse gas emission mostly from the burning of fossil fuels will reduce the availability of some vegetables, fruits and seafood varieties, cause others to lose their taste and make some food crops less nutritious.
In Friday's report, the task force warned that the global food system was especially vulnerable because food crops like wheat come from just a handful of major producing countries and due the fact that the world is so interconnected - reducing the impacts of a local shock while increasing the vulnerability to large shocks in distant "breadbasket" regions.
The report calls for a range of recommendations to improve the system's resilience, including creating international contingency plans, developing better modeling methods to accurately predict the effects of production shocks and identifying international trading "pinch points" in order to minimize them. It also calls for helping the poorest countries prepare for market shocks and farmers adapt to climate change with such things as drought-tolerant crops.
"Agriculture faces a triple challenge. Productivity must be increased by reversing declines in yield growth and closing the gap between actual and attainable yields in the developing world, whilst also reducing its environmental impact," the report said. "However, given the increasing risk of extreme weather, this cannot come at the expense of production resilience. Increases in productivity, sustainability and resilience to climate change are required."