International trade is key

Food Security CASE Maps: Interactive Climate, Agriculture, and Socio-Economic Maps is based on analysis in IFPRI’s December 2010 report:  Food Security, Farming, and Climate Change to 2050: Scenarios, Results Policy Options. One of the report's four main messages is highlighted here.

International trade plays an essential role in compensating for various climate change effects.

Despite large differences in precipitation amounts and seasonal variation across the climate scenarios, the differences in price and other outcomes are relatively small. The exception is the dramatic effect on international trade flows. Changes in developed country net cereal exports from 2010 to 2050 range from an increase of 5 million metric tons (mt) in the perfect mitigation scenario to a decline of almost 140 million mt. This is because the global scenarios that are wetter on average are particularly dry in the central United States, resulting in much lower 2050 maize and soybean production than the drier global scenarios, and therefore resulting in reduced exports.

Trade flows can partially offset local climate change productivity effects, allowing regions of the world with positive (or less negative) effects to supply those with more negative effects. This important role for international trade can be seen in the results for the South Asian drought simulation, which models an extended drought beginning in 2030, with return to normal precipitation in 2040. Substantial increases in trade flows soften the blow to Indian consumers.

During the drought the region sees large increases in imports (or reductions in net exports) of the three key commodities, rice, wheat, and maize. These net imports drive world prices higher. Essentially, other countries’ producers and consumers help to reduce, though certainly not eliminate, the human suffering that a South Asian drought would cause.

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