Building resilience for food security in a changing climate

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice is pictured speaking at the Global Food Security Symposium in Washington on May 22. She said, “Climate change affects every aspect of food security, from production to pricing.  Climate change is not some distant threat.  We’re already dealing with its impacts.” (Credit: The Chicago Council)

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice is pictured speaking at the Global Food Security Symposium in Washington on May 22. She said, “Climate change affects every aspect of food security, from production to pricing. Climate change is not some distant threat. We’re already dealing with its impacts.” Credit, The Chicago Council.

Climate change is bringing hotter temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and more frequent natural disasters that could reduce global food production by 2 percent each decade for the rest of the century according to a report from The Chicago Council on Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate (pdf).

“Instead of treating climate change and food security as separate problems—we need to tackle these as one problem,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah in a keynote address to Chicago Council’s Global Food Security Symposium 2014, convened to discuss the report on May 22 in Washington, D.C. More than 500 policymakers, corporate executives, scientists, and senior leaders from international and nongovernmental organizations gathered to discuss the report. U.S. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah delivered keynote addresses.

Through tout the day, a diverse group of panelist shed light on their varying responses to climate change. There was no debate that effects climate change are happening now, but rather how people, businesses and governments are managing the effects.

“Managing the risk of weather volatility is something we are thinking about a lot,” said panelist Patrick O’Toole, head of the Family Farm Alliance, and a 4th generation cattle and sheep rancher in the Little Snake River Valley on the Wyoming-Colorado border. “Three years ago we had the wettest year in our history with 350% of our normal snow pack and the next year was the driest year in the 130 years since my family has been working the ranch. This year, the rains came early, which we glad about, and we sheered our lambs. Then it snowed, and we lost 150 lambs in one night. So now, we are building a lambing shed.”

Mr. O’Toole lives in a dynamic conservation district that brings together a wide-range of partners: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited, local governments, businesses and residents. Managing water volatility caused by “white years” with storms and floods and “dry years” with drought is a top priority for the district.

He noted that rather than holding a debate about the policy of climate change, “Local communities respond and buy in when asked, ‘How can we build vibrant systems using a resilient, holistic approach to our watershed management?’  Planning for weather volatility is par for the course now. We are in the middle of climate change now.”

The report is broken down into four key recommendations calling for global food security to be a priority for U.S. economic and foreign policy. It also calls on the U.S. government to increase funding for climate research, adaptation and mitigation.

“History has shown that with adequate resources and support, agriculture can meet growing production demands and adapt to some changes in climate. But adaptation must begin now,” the report said.

For more information and to access the full report click this link: http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/files/Global_Agricultural_Development_Initiative/files/Global_Agriculture/Initiative_Events/Global_Food_Security_Symposium_2014.aspx

Author: Alison Mize

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