Next 10 years: Food crisis fueled by Asia’s droughts

U. LEEDS (UK) — Large parts of Asia face a higher risk of more severe droughts within the next 10 years, experts warn in a new report.

The droughts will impact regional and possibly even global food security, according to the report, which urges policymakers to focus attention on climate change adaptation to avert an imminent food crisis.

The analysis, led by the University of Leeds and published by the UK-based Centre for Low Carbon Futures, highlights China, Pakistan, and Turkey as the most seriously affected major producers of wheat and maize.


On average, across Asia, droughts lasting longer than three months will be more than twice as severe in terms of their soil moisture deficit compared to the 1990-2005 period. This is cause for concern as China and India have the world’s largest populations and are Asia’s largest food producers.

The research was led by Piers Forster, a professor from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, who is also a lead author on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that have directly informed UN climate negotiations of the latest science.

The study, available for download through the Centre for Low Carbon Futures, was based on climate change projections from 12 leading climate modeling centers around the world and finds clear signals of climate change emerging within the next 10 years.

“Our work surprised us when we saw that the threat to food security was so imminent; the increased risk of severe droughts is only 10 years away for China and India,” says Lawrence Jackson, a co-author of the report. “These are the world’s largest populations and food producers; and, as such, this poses a real threat to food security.”

“The message for policymakers is clear. The threat to food production in Asia from drought risk brought on by climate change could be felt in the next 10-15 years,” says Forster. “Given the slow rate of progress achieved over the 20 years up to the recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), we cannot wait for actions to address the changes in the physical climate if we want to feed the growing Asian population and limit impact on global food security.

“Immediate actions are needed to achieve more sustainable use of water supplies and enhance adaptive capacity.”

Jon Price, director of the Centre for Low Carbon Futures, says: “We commissioned this new study because until now most projections on food security and drought have been to the 2050s—far out of range for most policymakers to contemplate. Our report projects impacts for the 2020s. It shows in this period we will see marked increase in drought severity across much of Asia.”

He adds: “This new work takes a very different approach to traditional 50-year timescale global scale modeling by highlighting decisions and actions that need to be addressed immediately if we are to avoid the perfect storm on the horizon.

“What’s new is that we are presenting evidence that drought will impact food production in the near term meaning policy makers no longer have to wait to make crucial decisions.”

Source: University of Leeds