Climate change impacts food security in various ways. The changing climate affects the quality and availability of food through precipitation and crop yields. Food insecurity and malnutrition reduce the livelihood of society and can even lead to conflicts and people being displaced as climate refugees.

Extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common and they may reduce food security significantly in developing countries where food security is already compromised.

Changing rain patterns and more frequent extreme weather events

The intensity of rainfall is expected to change, and as a result, extreme weather events, such as heavy rains and floods as well as long periods of drought, will become more common. Vegetation can not utilise similarly rain that falls down in a heavy rain compared to more evenly spread rainfall. The timing of rainy seasons might change so that they are no longer compatible with the natural cycle of vegetation like they have been until now.

Heavy rains cause crop damages, erosion and strain the infrastructure especially in developing countries. Rain and humidity also increase the risk of fungal infections, such as mycotoxins which can develop in harvested cereals and maize stored in damp conditions.

Plant pests and diseases may become more common. Animal diseases and their vectors, such as certain disease-carrying hymenopterans that thrive in moist habitats, may increase.

Long spells of droughts are becoming more common

Desertification will accelerate. Long spells of droughts will become more common and harm vegetation, which will affect both trees and edible plants. Droughts and food scarcity will also impact production animals. Animals are often culled during droughts and as a result, there are fewer animal-derived foods, meat and dairy products available in the following year. Rising temperatures increase the heat stress of animals, which reduces yields.

Different areas will, however, experience different changes. Some areas may become more favourable to agriculture and cattle rearing if rain will fall more often and at more optimal times.

From forest to arable land

Increasing populations and need for food will increase the pressure to clear forests for new cropland. Felling forests accelerates the impact of climate change. It reduces the naturally-growing nurse plants and makes the area more vulnerable to droughts and erosion. There is potential in Africa, for example, to increase food production by increasing the yield levels and the effectiveness of animal production. This would require the adoption of more sustainable and intensive production methods. Increased food production would help relieve the pressure caused by population growth and urbanisation. Luke strives to improve food security in international projects and to find new ways of climate change adaptation in different regions and areas at the same time.

Photo by Martti Esala/ Luke

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