How the World Will React to Food Shocks and How to Make Our System More Resilient

Friday, February 12, 2016: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Marshall Ballroom North (Marriott Wardman Park)
Tim Benton, Global Food Security Program, Swindon, United Kingdom
Almost every country relies on food trade for ensuring local food security, and this reliance on trade is growing all the time.  Whilst trade brings many benefits, reliance on it brings risks in the event of something going wrong.  There is significant evidence that extreme weather is increasing as a result of climate change, and this has the potential to disrupt production and therefore, via trade-flows, food prices.  Whilst changing food prices can contribute to significant impacts for the nutrition of the poor in the developing world, their impacts are potentially far reaching globally.  This is because changing food prices and food availability have the potential to contribute to political destabilisation; some analyses indicate that both the long Syrian drought, and the 2010 Russian/Ukrainian heatwave contributed to initiating the Arab Spring resulting in the current destabilisation of the Middle East.  In this session, I firstly introduce the UK-US Taskforce that undertook a project on extreme weather and global food system resilience and discuss the background to why extreme weather is important for agriculture and food, and the routes by which perturbations in production, particularly in the major breadbasket regions of the world, can lead to impacts on people globally.  At the end of the session, I will highlight the report’s main conclusions about how we can make our food system more resilient. Resilience can arise by ensuring our agriculture is more better adapted to cope with climatic impacts, ensuring trade works –whether by maintaining trade routes and logistics, or by international agreements to avoid export bans, - or understanding better how patterns of extreme weather are changing and adapting accordingly.  It is also possible to help mitigate changing weather by reducing the emissions from the agri-food sector, particularly through changing diets.