Climate change will increase food insecurity

Faculty; Public Health

Climate change is likely to exacerbate food insecurity among the most vulnerable populations globally, says an expert on malnutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.

The National Climate Assessment, released the day after Thanksgiving, suggests that — among other impacts — rising temperatures will cause increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad that will threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security and price stability.

“Regions with the highest prevalence of stunting, a chronic form of malnutrition, are those also experiencing the negative impacts of extreme weather events such as drought and floods,” said Lora Iannotti, associate professor at the Brown School and associate dean for public health.

“So-called ‘small holders’ produce 80 percent of the  food in developing countries and often lack resources, infrastructure and safety nets to respond to these events,” she said. “Most are dependent on rain-fed agriculture and have seen diminishing production in the wake of climate change.”

In the United States and in populations around the world, poverty heightens the risk of food security and malnutrition, Iannotti said.

“Climate change through multiple mechanisms such as increased infection and other health implications, reduced access to high quality foods, or diminished food production and lost income will compound the poverty-malnutrition consequences if trends continue,” she said.