Abstract

Twenty-first-century challenges for food and nutrition security include the spread of obesity worldwide and persistent undernutrition in vulnerable populations, along with continued micronutrient deficiencies. Climate change, increasing incomes and evolving diets complicate the search for sustainable solutions. Projecting to the year 2050, we explore future macronutrient and micronutrient adequacy with combined biophysical and socioeconomic scenarios that are country-specific. In all scenarios for 2050, the average benefits of widely shared economic growth, if achieved, are much greater than the modelled negative effects of climate change. Average macronutrient availability in 2050 at the country level appears adequate in all but the poorest countries. Many regions, however, will continue to have critical micronutrient inadequacies. Climate change alters micronutrient availability in some regions more than others. These findings indicate that the greatest food security challenge in 2050 will be providing nutritious diets rather than adequate calories. Research priorities and policies should emphasize nutritional quality by increasing availability and affordability of nutrient-dense foods and improving dietary diversity.

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Data availability

The data and code used for this analysis are available for download at https://github.com/GeraldCNelson/nutrientModeling. The software code is open source under the GNU General Public License, version 3 or higher. Country-specific modelling results and more detailed information on modelling are available for download at http://impactnutrients.ifpri.org/nutrientModeling/. The corresponding author is prepared to respond to reasonable requests for code, data and results queries.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank their respective institutions for support. CSIRO authors acknowledge funding from the CSIRO Science Leaders Programme, the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (grant no. 20140604, CCAFS CSIRO Sustainable diets) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (grant no. OPP1134229). IFPRI authors acknowledge the financial support of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) and CCAFS. K.L. acknowledges financial support from HarvestPlus. J.A. acknowledges the World Food Center at UC Davis for providing initial support for her involvement in this effort. D.G. acknowledges the financial contributions provided by the ILSI Research Foundation and related partners for its initial support of his participation. The authors also thank J. W. Jones for suggesting the methodological approach used here, E. Fern for guidance in the use of the nutrient balance score, S. Wood for insights into choice of diversity metrics, Z. Li for R code for Rao’s quadratic entropy measure and A. Bunning and L. Unnevehr for helpful comments on earlier drafts. Any errors are the responsibility of the authors.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA

    • Gerald Nelson
  2. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

    • Jessica Bogard
    • , Daniel Mason-D’Croz
    • , Brendan Power
    •  & Mario Herrero
  3. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC, USA

    • Keith Lividini
    • , Timothy B. Sulser
    • , Keith Wiebe
    •  & Mark Rosegrant
  4. Program in International and Community Nutrition, Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA, USA

    • Joanne Arsenault
  5. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Health and Biosecurity, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

    • Malcolm Riley
  6. Independent Scientist, St Louis, MO, USA

    • David Gustafson
  7. Nestlé Research Centre, Vers-chez-les-Blancs, Lausanne, Switzerland

    • Karen Cooper
  8. Bioversity International, Heverlee, Belgium

    • Roseline Remans
  9. Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

    • Roseline Remans

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Contributions

G.N. is corresponding author. G.N., M.H., D.G. and K.W. conceived and planned the paper. G.N., J.B., and K.L. wrote the paper with edits from all authors. J.B., K.L., J.A., M.R. and K.C. were responsible for data selection and manipulation for the nutrient content and interpretation of nutrient results. T.S., D.M., K.W. and M.R. were responsible for development and implementation of the socioeconomic modelling, including links to climate model outputs. D.G., K.C. and R.R. were responsible for metric choice and details of implementation. G.N. and B.P. developed the R code used to produce the results. All authors provided ongoing comments and edits from initial inception to delivery of final version.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial or nonfinancial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gerald Nelson.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figs. 1–17, Supplementary Tables 1–7, Supplementary references 1–60.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0192-z