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Expert taskforce reports on extreme weather and food supplies

14 August 2015

An independent expert taskforce from the UK and USA has outlined key recommendations to safeguard against threats to food supplies in a new report for the Global Food Security programme today. The report highlights an increasing risk to global food supply disruptions and price spikes that could result from extreme weather events – such as heatwaves, droughts and floods – and offers new recommendations for mitigation.

The UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience report, which included physical scientists, social scientists and industry experts, calls for co-ordinated action around the world to mitigate the impacts on people.

Recommendations include; creating international contingency plans, developing better modelling methods to accurately predict the effects of production shocks, and identifying international trading ‘pinch points’ in order to minimise them.

The report identifies a need for agriculture to adapt to a changing climate and become more resilient in the face of extreme weather, while at the same time increasing productivity to meet an increasing global demand for food.

Professor Tim Benton, the Global Food Security programme Champion, said: “It is likely that the effects of climate change will be felt most strongly through the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts, heatwaves and floods and their impact on the production and distribution of food – something we almost take for granted.

“This study presents a plausible scenario for how the food system might be impacted by extreme weather, alongside a series of recommendations that should help policy and business plan for the future. Action is urgently needed to understand risks better, improve the resilience of the global food system to weather-related shocks and to mitigate their impact on people.”

Although further work is needed to reduce uncertainty and better understand the way extreme weather may change, there is good evidence that extreme weather events, from intense storms to droughts and heatwaves, are increasing in frequency and severity.

The report shows that severe ‘production shocks’ caused by extreme weather – whereby global food production is seriously disrupted – of a scale likely to occur once in a century under past conditions,  may occur as frequently as once every 30 years as the world’s climate and global food supply systems change in the coming decades.

Food production of the globally most important commodity crops; maize, soybean, wheat and rice, comes from a small number of major producing countries and so extreme weather events in these regions have the largest impact on global food production.

Greater interconnectedness reduces countries’ vulnerability to local production shocks, but may perversely increase vulnerability to large shocks in distant “breadbasket” regions.

This independent report was brought together by the UK’s Global Food Security programme and was jointly commissioned by the UK Science and Innovation Network and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.


Notes to editors

The reports are available at:

About the GFS programme

The GFS programme brings together the UK's main public funders of food security related research to coordinate efforts and deliver added-value from their collective activities in this area. The GFS Champion will drive forward co-ordination of research activities, as well as contributing leadership and networking to the programme. This will give a boost to food security research, helping to link funders, the research community, public and users of research.