Climate change and food security: Risks and responses



This publication provides an overview of the effects of climate change on vulnerabilities in food security and nutrition, and explores ways to reduce negative impacts through adaptation and resilience. Reducing vulnerability and investing in resilience, in particular through social protection at household level, is key to adaptation. The report advises that food security and nutrition and the broad sectors of agriculture should be priority areas for intervention.

The report brings together evidence from the latest IPCC scientific findings and FAO’s knowledge and practical experiences which show the cascading impacts of climate change on agro-ecosystems, livelihoods and food security, among others.

Crop models indicate that climate change will alter global food production patterns: negative crop productivity are expected; crop variability and the erosion of genetic resources for food and agriculture is likely to increase in many regions; livestock production will be affected, specifically animal productivity, as well as yields of forages, animal health and biodiversity. Likewise, there will be an impact on sustainability of capture fisheries and aquaculture development in marine and freshwater environments.

Climate change impacts is already visible in decreased productivity and dieback of trees due to drought and temperature stress, increased wind and water erosion, pest and disease outbreaks, and changes in forest plants and animals.

Socioeconomic effects will likely be considerable, reducing farmer incomes, investments and their expenditure. The latter is likely to hit the poorest farmers the most. Such effects can also have negative effects at the national level, triggering increases in food price volatility and agricultural commodities prices, and causing macro-economic effects for agriculture-dependent countries. In turn, global consequences include quantity and price effects and disruptions in trade patterns.

Strategic assessments and the use of a social vulnerability lens to understand why certain individuals, households, communities, and locations experience different effects, particularly regarding food security vulnerability and livelihoods. Such an understanding is crucial in framing adaptation interventions.

Increasing resilience can be achieved by reducing exposure, reducing sensitivity and increasing adaptive capacity, for every type of risk. It requires multiple scales, in various dimensions – ecological, technical, economic and social – involving various categories of actors and enabling governance environments and different timeframes. Social protection is key to building resilient livelihoods among the most vulnerable and poor, enhancing nutrition, and health and education levels.

Adaptation should also address gender-specific vulnerabilities. Women and men possess and have access to different amounts and combinations of livelihood assets (human, social, financial and natural). Feasible climate change adaptation options differ between women and men.

Climate change impacts affect food security across its four dimensions: availability, access, utilisation and stability, directly and indirectly.

Appropriate policies and institutions are needed to integrate climate change concerns in food and agricultural policies and institutions, particularly in support of farmer adaptation and collective implementation. Some medium- and long-term responses will need immediate enabling action and planning, and immediate implementation of investments, especially those investments that require longer time frames to be developed and arrive in the field: forestry, livestock breeding, seed multiplication, R&D, innovation and knowledge transfer to enable adaptation.


FAO. (2016). Climate change and food security: Risks and responses. Rome, Italy: FAO.