A CCS Report by Patricia Parera and Brigitte Hugh
Edited by Tom Ellison and Francesco Femia
Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Current State of Play
- Recommendations for Addressing the Policy Gap: Climate Change, Food Insecurity, and U.S. National Security
This report is the first of a new initiative by The Center for Climate and Security (CCS) dedicated to shining a light on the U.S. national security benefits of addressing climate change, food insecurity, and stability together. The report begins by outlining the global state of play on food security, followed by a preliminary assessment of existing U.S. initiatives that could be scaled up to increase the impact of the government’s response to climate change, food insecurity, and national security. Currently, policies and interventions often include two of the focus areas but are rarely scoped to consider all three. Thus, this landscape assessment focuses on three current nexus areas: (1) food insecurity and national security, (2) food insecurity and climate change, and (3) climate change and national security.
Following are preliminary key findings and policy recommendations considered to be a priority for policymaking action.
- Current food security policy is largely focused on immediate, emergency response instead of longer-term resilience building. Interventions centering on food insecurity generally address immediate, short-term needs when disasters and humanitarian crises strike. However, while necessary, they are not scoped for long-term community resilience, like anticipatory and sustainable interventions focused on climate change or national security. Reflecting this mismatch, global humanitarian aid has grown by more than 180 percent, six times the rate of growth in development assistance.
- While food insecurity is often mentioned as a byproduct of climate change and is seen as a precursor to instability, policies and interventions addressing food insecurity are rarely framed as, or developed to be, security-enhancing. Progress in anticipating, preparing for and mitigating national security risks from climate change and food insecurity need to be tackled together with much more holistic, collaborative, and people-centered interventions sensitive to the needs of all policy areas.
- The U.S. national security community has identified the nexus of food security and climate change as a top security concern. The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on climate change and international responses and the 2023 Annual Threat Assessment both assess climate change to be a significant threat to national security and include mentions of the threats which stem from food insecurity. The NIE indicates that the intersection of food insecurity with governance gaps will probably result in social disruption, political turmoil, or conflict.
- Investments in resilient communities and food systems are crucial for the success of military missions, especially those working in the most climate-vulnerable states. This has been emphasized by senior military leaders, such as General Langley of U.S. Africa Command.
- Bridging the gap between the nexus of agriculture, food security, climate change policy, and security will require changes related to funding, engagement, and capacity building. Coordination gaps, lack of horizontal and vertical alignment, barriers related to data management, lack of technical capacity, and a dearth of extension and research contribute to the gaps and must be addressed, especially during the project implementation process.
Key Policy Recommendations
- Increase public and private investments to develop and scale up adaptation, resilience, and mitigation.
- Invest in greater research on how to reduce agricultural emissions without further widening existing inequalities that mean smallholder farmers are most likely to be poor, hungry, and malnourished.
- Increased investment to understand when and where climate-smart agricultural practices are likely to succeed as a climate solution.
- To meet the systemic risks posed by food, climate, and security issues, adopt system-wide solutions across sectors and actors and better coordinate overlapping data and modeling tools.
- Integrate geopolitics, climate, and security risks into the strategic planning of governments and militaries.
- Adaptation and resilience strategies need a risk management and continuous learning framework. This means avoiding measures that are designed for a precise future scenario, instead prioritizing interventions that are robust and flexible, and can be adjusted over time as more information becomes available.
This preliminary assessment by the CCS shows that disruptions to economic systems, communities, and livelihoods across the globe have implications for U.S. domestic prosperity, as well as the success and stability of its partners abroad. The United States, as a global leader, has a particularly important role to play in developing more sustainable, resilient, and equitable global mitigation and adaptation policies and programs. Doing so requires increased funding and investments in science, innovation technology, research, and development to protect our food supplies and the environment while preventing global hunger, conflict, and instability.
This report is the first of a new initiative by The Center for Climate and Security (CCS) dedicated to shining a light on the U.S. national security benefits of addressing climate change, food insecurity, and stability together. The Feeding Resilience: Climate Change and Food Insecurity Impacts on U.S. National Security Project (Feeding Resilience) is framed by the twin premises that international stability is foundational to U.S. national security, and that food security is foundational to international stability. Thus, efforts to bolster the integrity of regional and global food systems can be viewed through a security lens, which is especially true in an era of accelerating climate change, instability, and conflict.
The report begins by outlining the global state of play on food security, followed by a preliminary assessment of existing U.S. initiatives that could be scaled up to increase the impact of the government’s response to climate change, food insecurity and national security. It also highlights policies and programs that are being put forward by United Nations specialized agencies, multilateral development banks and national and international security organizations that are working at the intersection of climate change, food and national security. These sections are organized into three nexus areas: (1) food insecurity and national security, (2) food insecurity and climate change, and (3) climate change and national security.
The final section presents preliminary recommendations for bridging the policy gap between climate change, food security and national security, and lays the groundwork for the project’s next steps, which will include a policy report and actionable recommendations to be presented to policymakers in 2024.
Current State of Play
In the 21st century, food insecurity,climate change, and national security are intimately entwined in as-yet underexplored ways. Because of climate change, conflict in Ukraine, and supply chain disruptions in the wake of COVID-19, between 691 and 783 million people faced hunger in 2022—an increase of 122 million people since 2019. Global acute food insecurity affects more than 258 million people in 58 countries worldwide. Four out of ten people worldwide are unable to afford a healthy diet. The world is moving backwards in efforts to eliminate hunger and malnutrition. After a decade of consistent development gains, global hunger has increased sharply in recent years. Worldwide, food insecurity disproportionately affects women and people living in rural areas. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Food Programme (WFP) warn that food security is likely to deteriorate further in 18 hunger hotspots across 22 countries from June to November 2023.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has underscored the ways in which conflict and climate change can combine to worsen other security risks, including food insecurity. Conflict in Europe’s breadbasket has resulted in a decreased global supply of cereals, fertilizer, and gas, while increasing prices. At the same time, climatic hazards across the world have impacted growing seasons and crop yields.Rising prices and waning employment opportunities often lead to political unrest, contributing to fragility, instability, or conflict, moving countries toward a greater state of fragility.
In recent Congressional testimony, General Bryan P. Fenton, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, noted that: “Ongoing geopolitical, technological, economic, and environmental change often exacerbate regional instability, threatening effective governance and fueling radicalization.”
At the time of writing, Russia has pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Deal for the third time since the deal was struck in July 2022, in a potential blow to global food supplies.The deal allowed Ukraine to export grain by sea, with ships bypassing a Russian blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports and navigating safe passage through the waterway to reach global markets. It proved vital for stabilizing global food prices and bringing relief to the developing countries which rely on Ukrainian exports. Meanwhile, scientific analysis warns that climate models underestimate the food security risks from simultaneous climate-driven crop failures in multiple major crop-producing regions.
Progress in anticipating, preparing for and mitigating national security risks from climate change and food insecurity will require that policymakers, thought leaders, and civil societies treat them comprehensively. Though development, humanitarian, diplomatic, and defense organizations have worked on the intersection of climate change, food security, and national security, these issues must be tackled together with much more holistic, collaborative and people-centered interventions sensitive to the needs of all policy areas.
U.S. development cooperation—inclusive of humanitarian and other crisis-response efforts—is a pillar of the United States’ current national security and foreign policy, as the National Security Strategy and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Joint Strategic Plan affirm.The Global Food Security Act of 2016 was signed into law with strong bipartisan support, noting “It is in the national interest of the United States to promote global food security, resilience, and nutrition, consistent with national food security investment plans, which is reinforced through programs, activities, and initiatives.” The GFSA represented a landmark moment for the United States in recognizing the critical role of food security in development and national security. As a result of the GFSA, the U.S. Government has signaled to the international community that food security is a priority and has further strengthened monitoring and evaluation of food security programming, developed a more integrated approach, and deepened interagency engagement.
The GFSA was reauthorized for another five years in 2018, sending a strong message of U.S. commitment to the issue. Its main program, Feed the Future (FtF), led by USAID, aims to end global hunger and food insecurity. Working together with its partners, the current administration launched the Roadmap for Global Food Security: A Call to Action which urges the more than 100 signatory states to take several actions including keeping food and agricultural markets open, increasing fertilizer production, and investing in climate-resilient agriculture. The United States is also implementing the Global Food Security Strategy, which focuses on reducing global poverty, hunger, and malnutrition by supporting inclusive and sustainable agriculture-led economic growth; strengthening resilience among people and food systems; and supporting well-nourished healthy populations, especially among women and children.
However, significant gaps remain. An effective response to the multidimensional national security challenge posed by climate change and food insecurity requires complementary actions by various U.S. agencies, multilateral institutions, all governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), consistent with their respective mandates. Policymaking on the climate-food-security nexus usually falls into three main categories which form the intersection of two, but rarely all three, of the issues, namely: (1) Food insecurity and national security, (2) Food insecurity and climate change, and (3) Climate change and national security. Even when an organization is nominally addressing all three areas, it is usually doing so in a siloed way. Given that climate change, food insecurity, and national security threats are mutually reinforcing drivers of instability, interventions that address all three at once can best secure U.S. and international interests.
Based on an initial review of current policies, there are blind spots in U.S. policymaking on the co-benefits and tradeoffs across climate change, food, and national security. Below are some examples to illustrate this point.
Most interventions centering on food security address immediate needs when disasters and humanitarian crises strike. But while addressing food insecurity in the wake of disaster can prevent a greater crisis in the short-term, it does not improve community resilience against future shocks.
Today, it is clearer than ever before that a preventive approach is needed. Modern conflicts are not confined by political borders, and hunger emergencies could metastasize into larger-scale international security risks.
In this context, providing international food assistance and strengthening other countries’ food systems, before hunger crises strike, could have immediate, positive impacts on the national security of the United States. Further, such food-security investments contribute to U.S. national security by engaging long-time allies as well as emerging donors in supporting greater development financing to leverage and mobilize private-sector investment. These investments help counter corruption, raise environmental standards, and address other impediments to long-term, sustainable development such as debt on unfavorable and unsustainable terms.
Some progress has been made on this front in recent years. For example, there has been an evolution in U.S. intelligence threat assessments regarding the link between food and national security, and there is growing concern about the implications of food insecurity for national security in U.S. national security strategies. For instance, in 2015 the National Intelligence Council published an assessment warning that global food insecurity in strategically important countries would worsen through 2025, risking political instability and conflict, and that agricultural development and reform to improve food access could mitigate these risks. In 2022, the Director of National Intelligence warned of food insecurity from the Ukraine conflict, the U.S. National Security Strategy dedicated a section to “food insecurity,” and the prologue to the United States Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability (2020), mentions food insecurity as an indicator of fragility.
However, this recognition has not translated into sufficient policy change and investment in development and agricultural innovation to build long-term resilience, leaving the humanitarian sector overburdened, and a persistent risk of food-related security crises. Implementation of the strategic guidance in the United States is still ad hoc and requires much more deliberate attention and resourcing to ensure stability and security in countries where the United States has a vested interest.One serious concern is to boost agricultural development and climate adaptation—especially in rural areas—which is critical to future global food security and stability. Investments in agriculture are effective in reducing both hunger and poverty. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) generated by agriculture is 2 to 3 times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector. For almost all of the countries considered fragile and conflict-affected, agriculture is among the most important economic sectors. Stabilizing individual and community livelihoods through innovative social protections, food system development, and climate adaptation programs has the potential to increase food, nutrition, and economic security as well as social cohesion, resilience, and equality. Adaptation to climate change and conflict prevention are a single issue.
Nevertheless, over the past decade, global humanitarian aid has grown by more than 180 percent, six times the rate of growth in development assistance.Investment in U.S. public agricultural research and development (R&D) has fallen by a third over the past two decades, lagging after major trade competitors. Public agricultural R&D from 1900 to 2011 generated, on average, $20 in benefits to the U.S. economy for every $1 of spending. On the other hand, China has tripled its investments and it has become the largest funder of agricultural R&D in the world.
USAID currently programs nearly $30 billion in foreign assistance each year,Feed the Future. This new assistance includes programs to leverage the private sector; boost local fertilizer production and improve soil health—including through the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils; increase food yields by helping farmers adopt climate-smart practices; increase water access for farming communities; reduce food loss and strengthen food market systems; and fight and prevent malnutrition.with the U.S. providing $64 million to the FAO, $27 million to the International Fund for Agriculture, and $108 million to the CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research). USAID has now committed more than $14 billion in humanitarian and development assistance since June 2022 in more than 47 countries to address the global food security crisis exacerbated by Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine. This includes a $2.76 billion to surge support for the U.S. government response to the global food security crisis provided through
However, these contributions are not enough. Transforming food systems so they survive and thrive under climate change demands $400 billion a year until 2030—“far less than the cost of inaction estimated at $12 trillion a year in environmental, social and economic damage to communities, families, livelihoods and lives.”To achieve that, governments and the international community need to mobilize capital investment and scale up private sector capital. According to USAID, “food insecurity both contributes to and results from a number of today’s most significant national security challenges, including inequality, poverty, conflict, irregular migration, water insecurity, rising and record numbers of youth without access to decent work, and regional instability.” It also leads to an unsustainable cycle that impacts U.S. domestic safety and security. There are tangible benefits to the United States resulting from investments in international agriculture and food-security research and programming, including health and safety through reduction in global transmission of plant, animal, and human pathogens as well as significant benefits from technology spillover. In addition, food insecurity undermines the political stability of countries in fragile states.
The WFP estimates that for every year of food insecurity, refugee outflows increase by nearly two percent.While these refugees may initially go to nearby nations, the WFP found that poverty and food insecurity often encourage refugees to migrate to Europe and the United States. In Ethiopia, conflict between the federal government and regional forces in Tigray has drawn in Eritrean troops and plunged millions of people into desperate food insecurity. Climate change and climate-induced migration in the Horn of Africa could seriously exacerbate security risks in the region and in turn destabilize the continent, with the almost certain possibility of the U.S. playing a significant role. The above constraints are compounded by a financial crisis.
The high debt levels in low and middle-income countries, global inflation, and local currency depreciation make it extremely challenging for developing countries to finance longer-term development and resilience, which in turn exacerbates social tensions, competition for scarce resources and puts national and global human security at risk.
Targeted liquidity is required to enable adaptation to the impacts of extreme weather, and assurance of security in light of increasing future climate impacts.
Some humanitarian organizations are more intentionally working on the nexus of armed conflict and food security, noting that conflict worsens food security and food insecurity could be a driver of conflict. These organizations are attempting to strengthen resilience to food shocks as part of a broader effort to enhance the sustainability of humanitarian action in a climate changed world.For example, WFP has transitioned to a two-pronged strategy: addressing the short and long-term impacts of disasters and conflicts. WFP responds after an immediate disaster with life-saving food, cash and nutrition assistance. At the same time, it has a long-term strategy that helps communities adapt by (1) helping people grow crops which can withstand shocks like drought and floods; (2) protecting farmers and pastoralists with insurance against climate-related risks and (3) equipping schools with sustainable energy sources.
Elsewhere, researchers are developing new tools to help navigate the food-conflict nexus. These initiatives can complement each other to boost synergies, save resources, and increase understanding of the interconnectedness of food security, climate change and national/global security. For example, FAO is constantly developing technologies and data sets to counter not only the lack of access to food but also instability caused by protracted crises, disasters, or conflict. Most recently, it invited 44 countries to implement the Hand-in-Hand Initiative (HIHI), an analytic and partnership approach to integrate rapid response, improve anticipatory approaches to preventing food systems breakdown, and accelerate investment in food system resilience.CGIAR is a global research partnership with an annual research portfolio of just over $900 million working in 89 countries to transform food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis. It has developed many tools to empower developing countries to reduce their dependency on major exporters like Ukraine and Russia, including fertilizers, agronomic practices to increase yields, and new, hardier crop varieties.
However, these innovations are not reaching enough of the world’s smallholder farmers and other value chain actors to be effective. CGIAR also recently launched the Climate Security Observatory in an effort to fill some of the data gap at the food security, climate and national security nexus.The Global Alliance for Food Security (GAFS) has just launched the Global Food and Nutrition Security Dashboard, a tool designed to inform a coordinated global food crisis response and strengthen resilience with the latest information on food crisis severity, food security financing, and innovative research. With an interactive map, country profiles, and access to relevant resources, the dashboard empowers decision-makers to make informed choices and find effective solutions to combat food security challenges.
Many policies and interventions addressing food insecurity are beginning to recognize and engage with climate change impacts. However, they do not usually address the security implications of both food insecurity and climate change. Climate change threatens the natural resource base across much of the developing world. There are approximately 500 million smallholder farms who support the livelihoods of almost two billion people.Climate change accelerates ecosystem degradation and makes agriculture riskier. Small-scale farmers are impacted more immediately by droughts, floods, and storms, at the same time as they suffer the gradual effects of climate change, such as water stress in crops and livestock, coastal erosion from rising sea levels, and unpredictable pest infestations, all with potential security and stability ramifications.
What is important to consider when analyzing food insecurity and climate change, is that the global food system spans many disciplines, including: agriculture, health, climate science, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital science, political science, and economics.The indirect effects of policies on climate change, biodiversity loss, and adverse health effects need to be factored into the analysis of food security, agri-food systems, and their relationship to national security. While food insecurity is often mentioned as a byproduct of climate change and is seen as a precursor to instability, policies and interventions addressing food insecurity are rarely framed as, or developed to be, security-enhancing. This is especially concerning as these interventions have long-term impacts for ensuring the stability of many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
The most recent U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy addresses climate change as a driver for food insecurity.USAID Climate Strategy (2022-2030) targets climate mitigation and adaptation for the highest priority communities—those experiencing the most urgent needs or offering the most immediate opportunities. One of the goals of the strategy is to “respond to complex emergencies, build peace and resilience, and invest in lasting food security.”
The agriculture sector must increase yields to feed a population estimated to reach between 9.4 and 10.2 billion in 2050 to guarantee food security and avoid instability. However, food systems account for roughly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), up to 80 percent of biodiversity loss and up to 70 percent of freshwater consumption globally,highlighting tension between expanding food production and ameliorating other climate security risks.
Agriculture is an important part of the solution to climate change and food insecurity, given its potential role of reducing emissions through climate-smart practices, increasing yields, and increasing sectoral resilience and adapting to worsening climate and weather conditions.
However, R&D expenditures in many countries fall below the suggested minimum of one percent of agricultural GDP.USAID is conscious of these interconnected challenges, noting they cannot increase food security without working to mitigate increased agricultural emissions. USAID proposes advanced methods of farming, soil mapping, and precision agriculture to minimize these tradeoffs. There is also evidence that USAID needs to be reformed to further mainstream climate resilience into U.S. global food security programs.
Additionally, the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE), an initiative jointly carried out by the Department of State and USAID and involving 19 U.S. federal agencies, aims to help more than half a billion people in developing countries adapt to and manage the impacts of climate change by 2030, including food insecurity, via emergency early-warning, adaptation financing, private sector engagement, and capacity building. PREPARE was launched in November 2021 as the cornerstone of the U.S. foreign policy response to address the impacts of global climate change. PREPARE aims to provide $3 billion in U.S. adaptation finance annually by FY2024.PREPARE will focus on addressing long-standing gaps in adaptation that disproportionately affect women, youth, indigenous peoples, and low-income and marginalized groups that have historically been excluded from adaptation planning and action, yet often face the greatest risks.
The US-based Military Advisory Board of the Center for Naval Analysesidentified climate change as a challenge for security nearly a decade before the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as global targets. Over the last decade, climate change and conflict have come to be seen and addressed as mutually reinforcing, and more defense conflict-prevention and security strategies and interventions are explicitly considering the impact of climate change on their missions. In the United States, the defense community was among the first and most consistent to take up climate change as a national security priority, partly due to the effect of extreme weather on their operations and installations. This growing concern underpinned the bipartisan passage of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act codifying that:
It is the sense of Congress that…climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and is impacting stability in areas of the world both where the United States Armed Forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflict exist…”(Section 335b)
In the years since, and following the Biden Administration’s 2021 Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued its Defense Climate Risk Analysis (DCRA). All three military departments have published climate plans, and DOD has increasingly incorporated climate change into exercises and engagements with allies and partners.Senior military leaders have also echoed the recognition that investments in resilient communities and food systems is crucial to their mission, especially those working in the most climate-vulnerable states. For instance, in 2023 General Michael Langley of U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) said, “U.S. investments focused on stabilization, conflict prevention and peacebuilding, democracy, governance, economic growth and public health attack the roots of terrorism and tyranny more than bullets and air strikes ever will.”
Climate change is broadly considered by the rest of the Intelligence Community in the United States to be a security priority. The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on climate change and international responses and the 2023 Annual Threat Assessment both assess climate change to be a significant threat to national security, and include mentions of the threats which stem from food insecurity.The NIE warns that “climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to US national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond to the challenge. Intensifying physical effects will exacerbate geopolitical flashpoints, particularly after 2030, and key countries and regions will face increasing risks of instability and need for humanitarian assistance.”
The Intelligence Community view of climate and security is broad, however, leaving limited room for detail on food and agriculture, which is usually characterized as an impact of climate change-induced instability, not a factor. NIE identifies 11 countries which will be of special concern since they are highly vulnerable to climate change’s physical effects and lack the capacity to adapt, suggesting that building resilience to climate change in these countries would be especially helpful in mitigating future risks to U.S. interests.The NIE indicates that the intersection of food insecurity with governance gaps will probably result in social disruption, political turmoil, or conflict.
Meanwhile, U.S. development policymakers tout the benefits of their efforts–including climate resilience investments—for U.S. national security. USAID notes that “U.S. development cooperation—inclusive of humanitarian and other crisis-response efforts—is a pillar of our national security, international strength, and principled engagement abroad.”The USAID Policy Framework, the agency’s highest-level policy document, also states that USAID’s work advances U.S. national security.
Climate change and security is also present in many strategic documents on security, including the National Security Strategy and State Department Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.U.S. partners and international organizations are similarly increasingly linking climate and security, including NATO. A new European Commission joint communication reframes climate security in such a way that it centers the importance of action on both climate resilience and food security as contributing to conflict prevention and peace, which is a step forward on a strategic level, though most interventions do not yet espouse this more holistic view. Most recently, the issues of climate change, peace, and security were taken up again by the United Nations Security Council during a debate on Climate, Peace and Security in June 2023, though the inclusion of food security was a secondary focus and most often described as a result of increased climate change.
Recommendations for Addressing the Policy Gap: Climate Change, Food Insecurity, and U.S. National Security
Bridging the gap between the nexus of agriculture, food security, climate change policy, and security in general—including project implementation—relates to either funding (international or national funds), engagement (coordination gaps, such as a lack of horizontal and vertical alignment) or capacity-building (barriers related to data management, technical capacity, or extension/research). A preliminary review of current policies highlights several issues requiring the following broad policy interventions – ideas that will shape the course of this project.
- Scale Up Resources Significantly: The increasing frequency of extreme weather events, food insecurity associated with climate vulnerability, instability, and conflict require much greater investments than have been made to date, in order to develop and scale up adaptation, resilience, and mitigation. National and international actors, as well as affected local communities and households themselves, are responding to the growing impact of crises in various ways, including through humanitarian assistance, early warning systems, migration, and resilience-building. However, the costs associated with these responses are enormous and drastically underfunded. Food and humanitarian assistance alleviates suffering, but alone they do not provide a sustainable solution to recurrent food and nutrition crises and their security implications. Doing so requires increased funding targeted towards contexts under financial and food-related stress. At the same time, public and private investment in R&D needs to be increased to develop technologies and innovations to create healthier and more climate resilient food environments and to increase the availability and affordability of nutritious foods.
- Synchronize Agricultural Emissions Cuts and Food Supply: Emerging literature shows that adopting the most ambitious measures to reduce agricultural emissions could compromise food security and increase hunger due to food price increases, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. There is a need for greater research on how to reduce agricultural emissions without further widening existing inequalities that mean smallholder farmers are most likely to be poor, hungry and malnourished.
- Refine Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA): Some researchers fear that CSA programs lack a workable plan for measuring and verifying the impacts of the practices. Others say science has yet to prove that climate-smart practices truly reduce GHG emissions. Since the science behind CSA remains a work in progress, greater investment is needed in the data tools necessary to understand when and where a practice is likely to succeed as a climate solution. However, this should not deter investment in CSA.
- Adopt Systemic Solutions: Food, climate, and security risk is systemic and requires systemic solutions. Recognizing the links between natural and biological hazards, climate change, and socio-economic shocks such as conflict, hunger and malnutrition, global, regional, and national policy dialogues must be risk-informed and geared towards system-wide solutions across sectors and actors. Attaining stability, climate resilience, food security, and nutrition for all requires scaled-up action, integrated approaches to disasters, conflict, instability, climate and crisis risk reduction and management at all levels. There is room to improve, including accounting for underappreciated systemic risks like simultaneous breadbasket failures or better coordinating overlapping data and modeling tools.
- Integrate Geopolitics, Climate and Security Risks: As climate and food security influence geostrategic competition, its impacts and effects must be integrated into the strategic planning of governments and militaries. This includes the need to develop, maintain, and strengthen military readiness in a more volatile food and climate landscape, as well as mainstreaming an appreciation of the geopolitical benefits of food and climate investments in an environment of geostrategic competition.
- Avoid Maladaptation Risks: The climate security debate has so far focused on the ways climate change worsens security between and within states, with less attention given to the potential security risks from the projects attempting to address and mitigate climate change themselves. The current design of climate change mitigation initiatives is sometimes inappropriate for addressing the complexities and pre-existing challenges in (post-)conflict contexts. There are different forms of fragile states that result in different security issues and require different responses. Adaptation and resilience strategies need a risk management and continuous learning framework. This means avoiding measures that are designed for a precise future scenario, instead prioritizing interventions that are robust and flexible, and can be adjusted over time as more information becomes available.
This preliminary assessment by the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) shows that disruptions to economic systems, communities, and livelihoods across the globe have implications for U.S. domestic prosperity, as well as the success and stability of its partners abroad. The United States, as a global leader, has a particularly important role to play in developing more sustainable, resilient, and equitable global mitigation and adaptation policies and programs. Doing so requires increased funding and investments in science, innovation technology, research, and development to protect our food supplies and the environment while preventing global hunger, conflict, and instability.
Opportunities exist for the United States—already viewed as a leader in promoting global food security—to align with long-standing allies as well as new partners. As climate impacts worsen and further stress an already hungry world, the United States can invoke its leadership as the top contributor in Overseas Development Assistance (ODA)—equivalent to US$55.3 Billion or 27.10 percent of total ODA in 2022—as well as the largest contributor to the WFP. The United States gives more money to the WFP—$3.8 billion—than to any other body, and is the leading donor in nearly every country experiencing a humanitarian food crisis.
The United States should recognize its national security interest in leading an integrated global response to climate change and food insecurity. Over the course of the project, CCS will engage with climate, security, development, humanitarian, and food security policymakers, practitioners, and academics to share experiences on the nexus dynamics of climate change, food insecurity, stability, and national security in an effort to bridge the policy gaps outlined in this report and elicit recommendations and best practices for future progress on this crucial nexus.
A: A situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life. It may be caused by unavailability of food, insufficient purchasing power, inappropriate distribution or inadequate use of food at the household level. Food insecurity, poor conditions of health and sanitation and inappropriate care and feeding practices are the major causes of poor nutritional status. Food insecurity may be chronic, seasonal or transitory (FAO et al., SOFI 2018).
B: Climate change refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties which persist for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings such as modulations of the solar cycles, volcanic eruptions and persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use (IPCC, AR5). In its Article 1, the UNFCCC defines climate change as: “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.”
C: Acute food insecurity is when a person’s inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in immediate danger. Global Report on Food Crises: acute food insecurity hits new highs (fao.org)
D: A situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Based on this definition, four food security dimensions can be identified: food availability, economic and physical access to food, food utilization and stability over time (FAO et al., SOFI 2020).
E: Foreign aid from official donors rose to an all-time high of USD 204 billion in 2022, up 13.6% in real terms from USD 186 billion in 2021 as developed countries increased their spending on humanitarian aid and on processing and hosting refugees. Source: The New Humanitarian, 13 April 2023.
1 FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2023. Rome, FAO.
2 “Global Food and Nutrition Security Dashboard.” The World Bank. , Accessed 23 July 2023.
3 Alavaro Lario, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at the UN Food Systems Summit + 2 Stocktaking Moment. 24-26 July 2023, Rome, Italy.
4 The World Bank. Updated 13 July 2023.
5 WFP, 8 February 2023.
6 Brigitte Hugh, “,” August 1, 2023, The Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks.; Elsa Barron, Brigitte Hugh, and Michael R. Zarfos, ed. Tom Ellison, “,” The Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, March 22, 2023.
7 General Bryan P. Fenton, , the Committee on Armed Services, United States House of Representatives, March 9, 2023.
8 Michelle Nichols and Guy Faulconbridge, “,” July 17, 2023, Reuters.
9 Rob Picheta, Mick Krever, and Anna Chernova, “,” CNN, July 17, 2023.
10 Kai Kornhuber, “,” Eco-Business, July 11, 2023.
11 Food Security Act, Section 3 (a) Statement Of Policy Objectives. USAID, March 2023.
12 See Annex 2, page 130 for a detailed Index of Global Food Security Act Strategy Requirements and where they are addressed in the Strategy.
13 Chase Sova, Galen Fountain, Eilish Zembilci, Tia Carr, “,” World Food Program USA, 2023, Washington, D.C.
14 , USAID.
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18 Brigitte Hugh and Erin Sikorsky, “,” January 19, 2023. The Center for Climate and Security, an Institute of the Council on Strategic Risks.
19 Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, “”, CGIAR, June 16, 2023.
20 “Policy Framework: Driving Progress Beyond Programs.” USAID, March 2023.
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24 USAID, June 22, 2023.
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28 UN News, 20 June 2022.
29 Michelle D. Gavin, “,” Council on Foreign Relations, Center for Preventive Action, November 2022.
30 Patricia Parera, “Event Report: Addressing the Interplay of Climate Change, Food and National Security,” Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, Washington DC, (forthcoming).
31 International Committee of the Red Cross, October 24, 2022.
32 website accessed on 14 July 2023.
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34 CGIAR, May 23, 2023.
35 , Global Alliance for Food Security (GAFS).
36 International Fund for Agricultural Development, April 25, 2023.
38 Chase Sova, Galen Fountain, Eilish Zembilci, Tia Carr, “,” World Food Program USA, 2023, Washington, D.C.
39 U.S. Government’s Global Hunger & Food Security Initiative, “,” May 2022.
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43 Hippolyte Fofack, “,” May 19, 2022, Brookings Institute.
44 For additional initiatives that could be effectively scaled up to increase the impact of the government’s response to climate change—Feed the Future’s Innovation Labs program, food security projects under the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C)–, refer to Thom S. Jayne, “.” The Farm Journal Foundation, 2023.
45 2007, The CNA Corporation.
46 Elsa Barron and Patricia Parera, “,” June 22 2023, Center for Climate and Security, Council on Strategic Risks.
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48 Center for Climate and Security, June 2022.
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51 U.S. National Intelligence Council, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2021.; “,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, February 6, 2023.
52 The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, October 21, 2021.
53 Afghanistan, Burma, India, Pakistan, North Korea; Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Iraq.
54 USAID, March 2023.
55 The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, October 21, 2021.
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57 United Nations Security Council, June 13, 2023.
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66 Alvaro Lario, “,” International Fund for Agricultural Development, February 27, 2023.
67 Council on Foreign Relations Editors, “,” Council on Foreign Relations, March 13, 2023.