Climate change is increasing the risk of severe ‘food shocks’ where crops fail and prices of staples rise rapidly around the world.
Researchers say extreme weather events that impact food production could be happening in seven years out of ten by the end of this century.
The authors argue that an over reliance on global trade may make these production shocks worse.
The impacts are most likely to be felt across Africa and the Middle East.
Poor harvests and low stocks of grains in 2008 combined with a host of other factors to produce a spectacular price rise in cereals, with a UN index of prices peaking at 2.8 times higher than it was at the turn of the millennium.
In 2010-11, a heat wave in Russia led to the country’s worst drought in 40 years, decimating the grain harvest and leading indirectly, to food riots in North African countries as prices of bread rose rapidly.
Now researchers from the US and the UK have analysed the chances of extreme weather events causing these types of food shocks as the world warms over the coming century.
Looking at the production of rice, wheat, maize and soybeans, the scientists found that the the chances of a one in 100-year production disruption is likely to increase to a one in 30-year event by 2040.
From 2070 onward, they estimate that severe shocks, which could see global production drop by 10%, could be happening in seven out of ten years.
“It is very difficult to characterise these extreme events and their frequency, but what we do see quite clearly is that events that are very rare in the present day are becoming more frequent in the future,” said Kirsty Lewis, one of the authors, from the UK’s Met Office.
“The most extreme events of the future are likely to become more intense, so potentially larger shocks and more frequent shocks.”
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation says that increasing population will drive demand for food up by 60% by 2050 in any case, so there is going to be significant pressure on food production.
Press link for more: Matt McGrath | bbc.com