A multi-model assessment of food security implications of climate change mitigation

Abstract

Holding the global increase in temperature caused by climate change well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, the goal affirmed by the Paris Agreement, is a major societal challenge. Meanwhile, food security is a high-priority area in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which could potentially be adversely affected by stringent climate mitigation. Here we show the potential negative trade-offs between food security and climate mitigation using a multi-model comparison exercise. We find that carelessly designed climate mitigation policies could increase the number of people at risk of hunger by 160 million in 2050. Avoiding these adverse side effects would entail a cost of about 0.18% of global gross domestic product in 2050. It should be noted that direct impacts of climate change on yields were not assessed and that the direct benefits from mitigation in terms of avoided yield losses could be substantial, further reducing the above cost. Although results vary across models and model implementations, the qualitative implications are robust and call for careful design of climate mitigation policies taking into account agriculture and land prices.

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Fig. 1: Population at risk of hunger under the baseline scenario and food consumption.
Fig. 2: The population at risk of hunger under the baseline and mitigation scenarios.
Fig. 3: Emissions and carbon prices.
Fig. 4: Food consumption, agricultural price and carbon price relationships.
Fig. 5: Complementary food policy cost compared with the mitigation cost.

Data availability

Scenario data are accessible online via the CD-LINKS Scenario Database at https://db1.ene.iiasa.ac.at/CDLINKSDB. Data derived from the original scenario database, which are shown as figures but are not in the above database, are available upon reasonable request from the corresponding author.

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Acknowledgements

S.Fujimori, T.H. and K.T. are supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number JP16K18177, JSPS Overseas Research Fellowships and the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund (2-1702) of the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency of Japan. J.Després and A.S. are funded by the European Commission. All other authors received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 642147 (CD-LINKS). The views expressed are purely those of the writer and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission.

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S.Fujimori, V.K. and K.R. designed the research; S.Fujimori carried out analysis of the modelling results, created figures and wrote the draft of the paper; T.H. and Y.O. carried out hunger estimation tool simulation; S.Fujimori and T.H. provided AIM data; J.Doelman, J.K., H.v.M. and D.v.V. provided IMAGE data; O.F., S.Frank and P.H. provided MESSAGE–GLOBIOM data; J.Després and A.S. provided POLES data; B.L.B., F.H. and A.P. provided REMIND–MAgPIE data; V.B., L.D. and J.E. provided WITCH data; J.C. edited English language; and all authors contributed to the discussion and interpretation of the results.

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Correspondence to Shinichiro Fujimori.

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Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Figs. 1–16, Supplementary Tables 1–3, Supplementary Refs. 1–20

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Fujimori, S., Hasegawa, T., Krey, V. et al. A multi-model assessment of food security implications of climate change mitigation. Nat Sustain 2, 386–396 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0286-2

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