A study from a project co-chaired by former 1st District congressman Doug Bereuter says climate change threatens to undermine not only how much food can be grown but also the quality of that food, as altered weather patterns lead to a less desirable harvest.
Crops grown by many of the nation’s farmers have a lower nutritional content than they once did, according to the report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Research indicates that higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have reduced the protein content in wheat, for example. And the International Rice Research Institute has warned that the quality of rice available to consumers will decline as temperatures rise, the report noted.
The council has been examining the effects of climate change on food for several months as part of a project co-chaired by former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and former Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-Neb., president emeritus of the Asia Foundation.
Others on the advisory group for the project are prominent agribusiness leaders, such as Jose Luis Prado, president of Quaker Foods North America, Paul E. Schickler, president of Dupont Pioneer, scientists, academic leaders, former Kansas Gov. John Carlin, now chair of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, and Howard Buffett, a Nebraska farmer and grandson of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.
The U.S. should embrace research into animal biology and plant management with the kind of enthusiasm it did space exploration in the 1960s, the council said, warning that the consequences of inaction could be severe.
“History has shown that with adequate resources and support, agriculture can meet growing production demands and adapt to some changes in climate,” Bereuter said in a news release. “But greater emphasis on adaptation must begin now.”
The report, titled Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate, was released Thursday at the council’s Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington, where 500 policymakers and scientists were gathered.
“Adaptation must begin now,” the report said. “Developing the necessary scientific breakthroughs and broadly disseminating them will require years, even decades of lead time.”
Climate change initially will produce both winners and losers when it comes to food production, the report said, but research has indicated that growing regions everywhere will eventually suffer from global warming.
The report calls on the U.S. government to integrate climate change adaptation into its global food security strategy. Recommendations include:
* Passing legislation for a long-term global food and nutrition security strategy.
* Increasing spending for agricultural research on climate change adaptation.
* Collecting better data and making information on weather more widely available to farmers. There are significant global data gaps right now on weather, water, crop performance, land use and consumer preferences.
* Increasing spending for partnerships between U.S. universities and those in low-income countries.
* Urging that food security be addressed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
Another conclusion, closer to the soil: Plant and animal germplasm preservation for domesticated and wild species needs to be a priority.
“As temperatures rise, rainfall patterns change and variability increases, farmers will need to figure out what their new normal might become, and, in fact, whether change is the new normal,” the report concluded.