Blog: John ShepherdUK report examines "risks and challenges" to food system from climate change

John Shepherd | 18 July 2016

The impact on the global food system is one of "six key priority areas" highlighted in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 report, which sets out "the most urgent risks and opportunities" arising for the UK.

According to the report, published by the independent Committee on Climate Change, shifts in the global production of food will be caused by climate change that "could positively or negatively affect the price, availability and nutritional value of food in the UK".

The report said: "At present there is no coordinated national approach to ensure the resilience of the UK food system. Coordinated approaches require broad participation across policy, industry and research."

"Significant and potentially far-reaching changes are already under way", the report said, such as an observed shift from cold to warm water plankton species in the North Sea. This could have "implications for the entire marine food chain".

By way of example, the report said: "The availability of the Barents Sea prawn stock is expected to fall as it moves east out of 'shared’ waters into Russian waters. By 2100, Russia may see a 55% increase in stocks. By contrast, Barents Sea cod stocks, in particular those off Norway, are anticipated to increase in future decades, and could become even more important for UK supply chains than at present."

Extreme weather events can also cause production shocks and supply chain disturbance, with impacts on the world food market, to which UK prices are particularly sensitive, the report said. "UK business is also affected by these shocks. For example, the 2012 US drought contributed to increasing the price of soya which, in turn, led to some UK pig farmers being forced out of business."

The report said more research is needed "to understand and manage the potential for long term shifts in global food production" as a result of climate change.

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