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Assessing Possible Climate Change Impacts on Chinese Food Supply

Paper Reviewed
Ye, L., Tang, H., Wu, W., Yang, P., Nelson, G.C., Mason-D'Croz, D. and Palazzo, A. 2014. Chinese food security and climate change: Agricultural futures. Economics 8: 10.5018/economics-ejournal.ja.2014-1.

Writing in a special "Food Security and Climate Change" issue of the ejournal Economics, Ye et al. (2014) note that the production of staple grains has generally risen together with population growth, "enabling China to feed approximately 20% of the world's population on less than 9% of the world's cropland." But they indicate that "food insecurity remains a fundamental issue for many poor and remote households," citing Huang and Rozelle (2009); and they say that at present, "more than 100 million farmers and their families still live in poverty," citing Khan et al. (2009), and that "the rural poor are particularly vulnerable to an uncertain climate."

As one way of projecting into the future in order to explore these important issues, the seven scientists investigated four possible Chinese climate futures downscaled from four global climate models (CNRM, CSIRO, ECHAM and MIROC) that were driven by SRES emission scenario A1B or B1, in order to get some idea of possible future areal distributions of the magnitude ranges of both temperature and precipitation. Then, they fed this information into the IMPACT model of Cline and Zhu (2008), which analyzes the impacts of these climate changes on both food production and various food production policies.

In terms of human vulnerability outcomes, these food production analyses indicate that a pessimistic climate change scenario "shows no increase but a stable level of about 3,000 kilocalories [of food production] per person per day across the period 2010-2050," while baseline and optimistic scenarios show increases in calorie availability that are "well above the 2020 goal of 2,600 kilocalories per day stipulated by the Chinese Food and Nutrition Development Strategy," citing MOA (2002) and Xu (2011). And they additionally find that "the mortality count of children under five years due to malnutrition will be continuously decreasing from the current levels, even under the most pessimistic scenario by 2050."

Overall, therefore, Ye et al. conclude that "Chinese agriculture is relatively resilient to climate change." As demonstrated by their suite of IMPACT analyses, for example, they note that maize yield alone "is predicted to jump by 45% during 2010-2050." And, therefore, they conclude that "it is unlikely that Chinese food security by 2050 will be compromised in the context of climate change." If anything - in both their and our opinion - it will likely be enhanced; for CO2 is truly what we feel should be denoted the elixir of life.

Cline, S.A. and Zhu, T. 2008. International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT): Model Description. International Food PolicyResearch Institute, Washington, D.C., USA.

Huang, J. and Rozelle,S. 2009. Agricultural Development and Nutrition: The Policies Behind China's Success. Occasional Paper Number 19. World Food Programme, China Office. Beijing, China.

Khan, S., Hanjra, M.A. and Mu, J. 2009. Water management and crop production for food security in China: a review. Agricultural Water Management 96: 349-360.

MOA (Ministry of Agriculture). 2002. China food and nutrition development guidelines, 2001-2010. Acta Nutrimenta Sinica 24: 337-341.

Xu, S.W. 2011. Chinese food and nutrition development in 2020: Goals and strategies. Food and Nutrition in China 17: 5-13.

Posted 3 December 2014