Global "hotspots" where climate-induced food insecurity is most likely to happen in the future have been mapped in a new study. Not surprisingly, the list includes India.
The study, 'Mapping Hotspots of Climate Change and Food Insecurity in the Global Tropics', was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
The work was undertaken by a team of scientists responding to an urgent need to focus climate change adaptation efforts on people and places where the potential for harsher growing conditions poses the gravest threat to food production and food security.
The researchers pinpointed areas of intense vulnerability by examining a variety of climate models and indicators of food problems to create a series of detailed maps.
One shows regions around the world at risk of crossing certain "climate thresholds"-such as temperatures too hot for maize or beans-that over the next 40 years could diminish food production.
Another shows regions that may be sensitive to such climate shifts because in general they have large areas of land devoted to crop and livestock production.
And finally, scientists produced maps of regions with a long history of food insecurity.
"When you put these maps together they reveal places around the world where the arrival of stressful growing conditions could be especially disastrous," Polly Ericksen, a senior scientist at the CGIAR's International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya and the study's lead author, said.
"These are areas highly exposed to climate shifts, where survival is strongly linked to the fate of regional crop and livestock yields, and where chronic food problems indicate that farmers are already struggling and they lack the capacity to adapt to new weather patterns.
"This is a very troubling combination," she added.
For example, in large parts of South Asia, including almost all of India, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa-chiefly West Africa-there are 369 million food-insecure people living in agriculture-intensive areas that are highly exposed to a potential five percent decrease in the length of the growing period.
Such a change over the next 40 years could significantly affect food yields and food access for people-many of them farmers themselves-already living on the edge.
"We are starting to see much more clearly where the effect of climate change on agriculture could intensify hunger and poverty, but only if we fail to pursue appropriate adaptation strategies," Patti Kristjanson, a research theme leader at CCAFS, said.
"Farmers already adapt to variable weather patterns by changing their planting schedules or moving animals to different grazing areas.
"What this study suggests is that the speed of climate shifts and the magnitude of the changes required to adapt could be much greater. In some places, farmers might need to consider entirely new crops or new farming systems," she stated.
The study also shows that some areas today have a "low sensitivity" to the effects of climate change only because there is not a lot of land devoted to crop and livestock production.
But agriculture intensification would render them more vulnerable, adding a wrinkle, for example, to the massive effort underway to rapidly expand crop cultivation in the so-called "bread-basket" areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
"Evidence suggests that these specific regions in the tropics may be severely affected by 2050 in terms of their crop production and livestock capacity," Philip Thornton, a CCAFS research theme leader and one of the paper's co-authors, said.
"The window of opportunity to develop innovative solutions that can effectively overcome these challenges is limited. Major adaptation efforts are needed now if we are to avoid serious food security and livelihood problems later," he added.