Letter | Published:

Risk of increased food insecurity under stringent global climate change mitigation policy


Food insecurity can be directly exacerbated by climate change due to crop-production-related impacts of warmer and drier conditions that are expected in important agricultural regions1,2,3. However, efforts to mitigate climate change through comprehensive, economy-wide GHG emissions reductions may also negatively affect food security, due to indirect impacts on prices and supplies of key agricultural commodities4,5,6. Here we conduct a multiple model assessment on the combined effects of climate change and climate mitigation efforts on agricultural commodity prices, dietary energy availability and the population at risk of hunger. A robust finding is that by 2050, stringent climate mitigation policy, if implemented evenly across all sectors and regions, would have a greater negative impact on global hunger and food consumption than the direct impacts of climate change. The negative impacts would be most prevalent in vulnerable, low-income regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where food security problems are already acute.

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T.H., S.F., K.T. and J.T. acknowledge support from the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund 2-1702 of the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency of Japan and the JSPS Overseas Research Fellowships. P.H., H.V. A.T. and H.v.M. acknowledge support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (EU H2020) under grant agreement no. 633692 (SUSFANS project). B.L.B. acknowledges support from the EU H2020 under grant agreement no. 689150 (SIM4NEXUS project). K.W., T.B.S. and D.M.D. acknowledge support from the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) and on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). This study has been partly funded by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (AGCLIM50 Project).

Author information

T.H. coordinated the conception and writing of the paper, performed the scenario analysis and created the figures. T.H., S.F. and Y.O. created the hunger estimation tool for the multiple models. T.H., S.F, P.H. and H.V. designed the research, led the writing of the paper and designed the scenario settings, which were developed and contributed by H.L.C., I.P.D. and H.v.M., with notable contributions from T.H., S.F., K.T., J.T. (AIM/CGE), P.H., H.V. (GLOBIOM), T.F., I.P.D., P.W. (CAPRI), P.K. (GCAM), J.C.D., E.S., W.J.v.Z. (IMAGE), D.M.D, T.B.S, K.W. (IMPACT), J.K., A.T., H.v.M. (MAGNET), B.L.B. and H.L.C. (MAgPIE). All authors provided feedback and contributed to writing the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests. The views expressed are solely those of the authors and do not represent an official position of the employers or funders involved in the study.

Correspondence to Tomoko Hasegawa.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Discussions 1–10, Supplementary Figures 1–17 and Supplementary Tables 1–5

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Further reading

Fig. 1: Effects of climate change and emissions mitigation efforts on food security.
Fig. 2: Effects of land-based mitigation on food security indicators by 2050 under ambitious climate mitigation scenarios (RCP2.6) with residual climate change impacts for three SSPs.
Fig. 3: Regional effects of climate change and emissions mitigation.