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Climate mitigation can – and must – include policies to assure food security

13/05/2019 – Policies that aim at limiting dangerous climate change need to account for food security issues. For the first time, tradeoffs between climate mitigation and food security have now been analyzed in a so-called multi-model assessment: many different computer simulations dealing with the same issue. The costs for food-smart climate policies are around 0.2% of global economic output in 2050, an international team of scientists. However, carelessly designed climate policy could increase the number of people at risk of hunger, at least compared to a baseline scenario, according to the study now published in Nature Sustainability. Compared to today, the number of people at risk of hunger is likely to sink in all scenarios studied. Yet if no climate policy at all would be implemented, the resulting risks for crop failure due to droughts and floods might also lead to hunger and costs. Including these impacts of extreme events is a challenge for future research.
Climate mitigation can – and must – include policies to assure food security

In all scenarios studied, the number of people at risk of hunger is sinking. However, this does not include impacts of droughts and floods that would occur in a no-climate policy scenario. Cutout from the Fujimori et al, 2019

“We can include policies to assure food security in climate mitigation, this is the good news,” says Alexander Popp from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, co-author of the study. For instance, redistribution of the tax income to poor households can help, as well as improved agricultural practices and technology transfer from rich to poor countries. “Yet there’s also bad news,” adds Popp. “We must include these policies to assure food security, because if we focused only on climate change mitigation and nothing else, we might indeed contribute to hunger.”

“While we found a similar effect in an earlier paper, this time we applied multiple alternative models and showed that the results are robust and a very high confidence,” says Shinichiro Fujimoi from Kyoto University, lead-author of the study and a guest researcher in the IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) Energy Program. “Policy makers should be aware that potential issues could arise as a result of the uniqueness of the food system compared to, for example, the energy system.”

Both climate stabilization and zero hunger are part of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Many of them interact, sometimes with substantial trade-offs. “For instance, biomass plantations of trees and grasses can be one way to get CO2 out of the atmosphere, because plants store it in their leaves and trunks,” explains Benjamin Bodirsky from PIK, a co-author of the study. “But these plantations can create a fight for land between bioenergy, food production and nature conservation. It is therefore crucial to first lift people out of poverty and to do all we can to reduce emissions, before we eventually use the last-resort of carbon removal through bioenergy."

Article: Shinichiro Fujimori, Tomoko Hasegawa, Volker Krey, Keywan Riahi, Christoph Bertram, Benjamin Leon Bodirsky, Valentina Bosetti, Jessica Callen, Jacques Després, Jonathan Doelman, Laurent Drouet, Johannes Emmerling, Stefan Frank, Oliver Fricko, Petr Havlik, Florian Humpenöder, Jason F. L. Koopman, Hans van Meijl, Yuki Ochi, Alexander Popp, Andreas Schmitz, Kiyoshi Takahashi, Detlef van Vuuren (2019): A multi-model assessment of food security implications of climate change mitigation. Nature Sustainability ]DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0286-2]

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