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Impacts of climate change on global food trade networks

Countries’ reliance on global food trade networks implies that regionally different climate change impacts on crop yields will be transmitted across borders. This redistribution constitutes a significant challenge for climate adaptation planning and may affect how countries engage in cooperative action.

Henrik Carlsen, Simon Croft, Chris West, Emilie Stokeld / Published on 25 January 2023

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Hedlund, J., Carlsen, H., Croft, S., West, C., Bodin, Ö., Stokeld, E., Jägermeyr, J., & Müller, C. (2022). Impacts of climate change on global food trade networks. Environmental Research Letters, 17:12.

Siti Khatijah Market, Kelantan, Malaysia

Siti Khatijah Market, Kelantan, Malaysia. Photo: Alex Hudson / Unsplash

This paper investigates the long-term (2070–2099) potential impacts of climate change on global food trade networks of three key crops: wheat, rice and maize. The authors propose a simple network model to project how climate change impacts on crop yields may be translated into changes in trade. Combining trade and climate impact data, their analysis proceeds in three steps.

First, the authors use network community detection to analyse how the concentration of global production in present-day trade communities may become disrupted with climate change impacts.

Second, they study how countries may change their network position following climate change impacts.

Third, they study the total climate-induced change in production plus import within trade communities.

Results indicate that the stability of food trade network structures compared to today differs between crops, and that countries’ maize trade is least stable under climate change impacts. Results also project that threats to global food security may depend on production change in a few major global producers, and whether trade communities can balance production and import loss in some vulnerable countries. Overall, their model contributes a baseline analysis of cross-border climate impacts on food trade networks.

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SEI authors

Henrik Carlsen
Henrik Carlsen

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Simon Croft

Research Fellow

SEI York

Chris West

Deputy Centre Director (Research)

SEI York

Emilie Stokeld

Research Associate

SEI York

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