A recent article in the Guardian highlights the increasing importance of food trade globally. Of the countries investigated in the study, 66 currently do not produce enough food to feed their people - roughly 16% of the global population. By 2050 the study predicts that over half of the world’s population will rely on imported food – making global food security more reliant on international trade. The predictions do not take into account the impact of climate change on food supply which could exacerbate the situation.
It is now thought that climate change is going to significantly impact our global food system by shifting where food is grown, in what seasons and in what quantities. Including these possibilities into the predictions of global food security is a necessity if we are to think ahead.
A new study in New Zealand is aiming to look into these issues for our own country. The CCII or Climate Change Impacts and Implications for New Zealand study led by NIWA and Landcare Research will explore the consequences of different climate trends for New Zealand so we can better prepare for these coming issues. The study will generate improved climate projections for New Zealand based on the latest global modelling and evaluate key pressures on and responses of five important environments (alpine, hill-country, lowlands, coastal and marine). The study will also explore feedbacks, cumulative impacts and limits at the national level from the interaction of climate, population, land-use change, economic development, and increase the relevance of climate change in decision making processes. The aim of this project focuses on extending New Zealand's foresight into the issues of climate change and how primary industries such as agriculture can respond to these challenges.
Another part of the equation of global food security is that New Zealand is currently a global food producer. If these predictions come to play and the world is significantly dependent on imported food - New Zealand may be a source of those food supplies for other countries. The increase in demand may offset the economic losses resulting from lowered agricultural production from extreme weather events. The potential negative and positive impacts of these shifts in agricultural production show how complex these issues are.
For more information, check out these condensed and interesting resources on what we know in New Zealand about the interactions between climate change and agriculture.