Back to All Events

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2016 Annual Meeting

Extreme Weather and Food Shocks Go To AAAS

A panel of British and American researchers, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC, presented updated research revealing how extreme events which affect the food system are increasingly likely to occur, resulting in ‘food shocks’.

Food shocks have the potential to wreak havoc on food markets, commodity exports, and families around the world. Because distant regions are increasingly connected by global markets, the threat of extreme events occurring in different breadbaskets simultaneously is especially concerning. For example, what if severe drought in the US Midwest withers the soy and maize harvest at the same time that a record-breaking heat wave in Europe bakes the continent’s wheat crop?

In a report released last year, an independent expert task-force from the UK and USA outlined key recommendations to safeguard against threats to food supplies. At the AAAS meeting, researchers from the taskforce discussed the impact of new research and outlined their prognosis for 2016.

Joshua Elliott, CI fellow and researcher at the Center for Robust Decision-Making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP), presented findings from ground breaking international projects to map the effects of climate change on crops around the world, and evidence for increasing risk to global agriculture from larger and more frequent extreme events as climate changes. He also presented new work on the risks posed by a 21st century Dustbowl-like drought to key commodity crops in the US Midwest and central plains, as featured in this video produced by AAAS.

What is a food shock? We take a look at what a food shock is and how researchers are looking to a past extreme event - the Dust Bowl- to prepare for the future.

irsty Lewis, Applied Climate Science Team Leader at the UK’s Met Office, discussed how our understanding of the geography of food production interacts with meteorology to compound the threats to food production in certain areas. She also commented on the seasonal forecasts and discuss the relationship between the global food system and current El Nino-driven weather patterns.

Prof Tim Benton, Champion of the UK’s Global Food Security Programme, which coordinated the task force’s report, discussed the recommendations and the ways in which we can develop resilience against the increasing likelihood of food shocks.

“The global interconnectedness that makes countries more resilient to local production shocks makes them more vulnerable to shocks in distant ‘breadbasket’ regions," Benton said. "Crop yields and climate data show us that the global food system is at increased risk as extreme weather events are as much as three times more likely to happen as a result of climate change by mid-century”.

Read coverage of the panel from BBC News.

Originally published by Rob Mitchum via the Computation Institute