Food Security

Food security is defined as a "situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life" (Schmidhuber and Tubiello, 2007). The four dimensions of food security are availability (the overall ability of agricultural systems to meet food demand), stability (the ability to acquire food during income or food price shocks), access (the ability of individuals to have adequate resources to acquire food), and utilization (the ability of the entire food chain to deliver safe food). Climate change affects all four dimensions directly or indirectly; all can be affected at the same time by nonclimatic factors such as social norms, gender roles, formal and informal institutional arrangements, economic markets, and global to local agricultural policies. For example, utilization can be affected through the impact of warming on spoilage and foodborne disease, while access can be affected by changing prices in the fuels used to transport food. Most studies have focused on the first dimension—the direct impact of climate change on the total availability of different agricultural products. Models that account for the other three dimensions need to be developed to identify where people are most vulnerable to food insecurity (Lobell et al., 2008; see also Chapter 4).

Because the food system is globally interconnected, it is not possible to view U.S. food security, or that of any other country, in isolation. Where food is imported—as is the case for a high percentage of seafood consumed in the United States—prices and availability can be directly affected by climate change impacts in other countries. Climate change impacts anywhere in the world potentially affect the demand for agricultural exports and the ability of the United States and other countries to meet that demand. Food security in the developing world also affects political stability, and thereby U.S. national security (see Chapter 16). Food riots that occurred in many countries as prices soared in 2008 are a case in point (Davis and Belkin, 2008). Over the past 30 years, there has been dramatic improvement in access to food as real food prices have dropped and incomes have increased in many parts of the developing world (Schmidhuber and Tubiello, 2007). Studies that project the number of people at risk of hunger from climate change indicate that the outcome strongly depends on socioeconomic development, since affluence tends to reduce vulnerability by enlarging coping capacity (Schmidhuber and Tubiello, 2007). Clearly, international development strategies and climate change are inextricably intertwined and require coordinated examination.

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