Thomas E Downing And Yolande Stowell


Climate affects food security in two distinct ways. Primarily, climate in association with soils, terrain, and vegetation is a resource that influences potential agricultural production. Agricultural productivity, in turn, provides income to individuals and households, leads to investment in infrastructure, and fuels the regional economy.

Climate also includes the hazards of drought, flood, windstorms, hail, and temperature extremes. Such climatic hazards lead to direct losses of income, infrastructure, and even lives. Indirect effects of hazards include aversion to investment because of high risk, a lack of infrastructure, and stagnation of the regional economy. Drought is the leading climatic hazard for vulnerable populations in most developing countries, although flood risk is critical in South Asia and China, and in recent years to some parts of Central America.

Conceptions of food security have evolved over the past few decades, and it has increasingly been recognized that "much more was involved in food security than just climate" (Glantz, 1997). Since the United Nations (UN) World Food Conference in 1974, there have been three major shifts in food security thinking: changing the scale from global to household and individual, broadening the focus from food alone to long-term resilience of livelihoods, and diversifying from objective indicators such as target levels of consumption to more subjective perceptions of security (Maxwell, 1994). (See Box 1 for a summary of food security definitions.)

Handbook of Weather, Climate, and Water: Atmospheric Chemistry, Hydrology, and Societal Impacts, Edited by Thomas D. Potter and Bradley R. Colman. ISBN 0-471-21489-2 © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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