Climate Crisis Poses Risk of Global Food Shortage by 2050, Warns US Special Envoy

by Ella

Dr. Cary Fowler, the United States special envoy for food security, has issued a stark warning that the world could face a severe food shortage by 2050 due to multiple factors, including declining crop yields, insufficient investment in agricultural research, and trade disruptions. Fowler, recognized as the “father” of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, emphasized the need for urgent action to address this looming crisis.

Agricultural economists’ studies have revealed that the world must increase food production by 50-60% by 2050 to adequately nourish the growing global population. However, projections indicate that crop yields may decrease by 3-12% due to the impacts of global warming.


Fowler, during his visit to Canberra, spoke at the Crawford Fund’s annual conference, themed “Global Food Security in a Riskier World.” He underscored the gravity of the situation, stating, “We’re going to fall fairly short of being able to provide that kind of increase in food production by mid-century.” When asked whether this constitutes an “existential crisis,” Fowler responded, “It’s pretty close to it, isn’t it?”


Australia, with its expertise in agricultural research and development, particularly in the context of a warming and drying climate, can play a significant role in addressing global food security challenges. Fowler praised Australia’s achievements in building a world-leading agricultural industry, even in the face of challenging soil conditions and climate.


Moreover, Fowler highlighted the growing interest in Indigenous crops, which have garnered global attention for their potential contribution to food security.


Despite past gains in productivity that led to a significant increase in food production over the past century, Fowler stressed that complacency is not an option. He pointed out that the world is currently in the midst of a global food crisis, with over 700 million people suffering from undernourishment in 2022, a sharp increase from 613 million in 2019. This crisis affects every nation, especially the most vulnerable.

Multiple factors have exacerbated the food crisis, including disruptions in supply chains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, high fertilizer prices, and low grain reserves. Fowler noted that 131 out of 196 countries worldwide rely on food imports, making them highly susceptible to shocks in the global food system.

To address these challenges, Fowler emphasized the need for increased investment in agricultural research, including long-term “moonshot” projects with no immediate returns. He highlighted that the United States’ agricultural research and development budget has stagnated for the past 50 years when accounting for inflation. Moreover, many developed nations, including the United States, have fallen behind China in terms of public investment in agricultural research and development.

While private-sector research funding has increased, it has often focused on developing and marketing new food and beverage products rather than crucial public sector initiatives related to plant breeding, drought resilience, or climate change adaptation for food crops.

Fowler urged countries to recognize the urgency of the situation and prioritize agricultural research and development to ensure global food security in the face of mounting challenges.



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