Global Hunger and Climate Change Adaptation Through International Trade

Nature Climate Change
2020 Vol 10, pg. 829–835


International trade enables us to exploit regional differences in climate change impacts and is increasingly regarded as a potential adaptation mechanism. Here, we focus on hunger reduction through international trade under alternative trade scenarios for a wide range of climate futures. Under the current level of trade integration, climate change would lead to up to 55 million people who are undernourished in 2050. Without adaptation through trade, the impacts of global climate change would increase to 73 million people who are undernourished (+33%). Reduction in tariffs as well as institutional and infrastructural barriers would decrease the negative impact to 20 million (−64%) people. We assess the adaptation effect of trade and climate-induced specialization patterns. The adaptation effect is strongest for hunger-affected import-dependent regions. However, in hunger-affected export-oriented regions, partial trade integration can lead to increased exports at the expense of domestic food availability. Although trade integration is a key component of adaptation, it needs sensitive implementation to benefit all regions.