Impacts of land use, population, and climate change on global food security

Amy Molotoks*, Pete Smith, Terence P. Dawson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)
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In recent years, global hunger has begun to rise, returning to levels from a decade ago. Climate change is a key driver behind these recent rises and is one of the leading causes of severe food crises. When coupled with population growth and land use change, future climate variability is predicted to have profound impacts on global food security. We examine future global impacts of climate variability, population, and land use change on food security to 2050, using the modeling framework FEEDME (Food Estimation and Export for Diet and Malnutrition Evaluation). The model uses national food balance sheets (FBS) to determine mean per capita calories, hence incorporating an assumption that minimum dietary energy requirements (MDER) remain constant. To account for climate variability, we use two Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), alongside three Shared Socio-economic Pathway (SSP) scenarios incorporating land use and population change within the model. Our results indicate that SSP scenarios have a larger impact on future food insecurity, in particular because of projected changes in population. Countries with a projected decrease in population growth had higher food security, while those with a projected rapid population growth tended to experience the worst impacts on food security. Although climate change scenarios had an effect on future crop yields, population growth appeared to be the dominant driver of change in undernourishment prevalence. Therefore, strategies to mitigate the consequences of projected population growth, including improved maternal health care, increasing equality of access to food at the national level, closing the yield gap, and changes in trade patterns, are essential to ensuring severe future food insecurity is avoided.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere261
Number of pages20
JournalFood and Energy Security
Issue number1
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work contributes to the Belmont Forum/FACCE‐JPI DEVIL project (NE/M021327/1). AM is supported by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) EastBio Studentship ( ) (grant number BB/M010996/1) and the Global Challenges Research Fund Trade, Development and the Environment Hub project (ES/S008160/1). Elke Stehfest and Jonathan Doelman are acknowledged for provision of land use data and we thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful suggestions which have strengthened this manuscript.


  • FEEDME model
  • food security
  • undernourishment


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