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finding 7.4 : extreme-weather-limits-access-to-safe-foods
Increases in the frequency or intensity of some extreme weather events associated with climate change will increase disruptions of food distribution by damaging existing infrastructure or slowing food shipments [Likely, High Confidence]. These impediments lead to increased risk for food damage, spoilage, or contamination, which will limit availability of and access to safe and nutritious food, depending on the extent of disruption and the resilience of food distribution infrastructure [Medium Confidence].
This finding is from chapter 7 of The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment.
Process for developing key messages: The chapter was developed through technical discussions of relevant evidence and expert deliberation by the report authors at several workshops, teleconferences, and email exchanges. The authors considered inputs and comments submitted by the public, the National Academies of Sciences, and Federal agencies. For additional information on the overall report process, see Appendices 2 and 3. The author team also engaged in targeted consultations during multiple exchanges with contributing authors, who provided additional expertise on subsets of the Traceable Accounts associated with each Key Finding.
Because the impacts of climate change on food production, prices, and trade for the United States and globally have been widely examined elsewhere, including in the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,fcd24eab-974a-46aa-8434-78b8cd3f0ef0 c04c5716-c318-4a4c-9774-ae61ce97d305 d0c735f3-4b2c-4dec-907c-09e81818b288 67bff3c8-bddd-4bbb-975d-bec307df5f72 3baf471f-751f-4d68-9227-4197fdbb6e5d c390e13f-8517-40a9-a236-ac4dede3a7a0 this chapter focuses only on the impacts of climate change on food safety, nutrition, and distribution in the context of human health in the United States. Many nutritional deficiencies and food-related illnesses are of critical importance globally, particularly those causing diarrheal epidemics or mycotoxin poisoning, and affect U.S. interests abroad; but the primary focus of this chapter is to address climate impacts on the food safety concerns most important in the United States. Thus, the literature cited in this chapter is specific to the United States or of demonstrated relevance to developed countries. The placement of health threats from seafood was determined based on pre- and post-ingestion risks: while ingestion of contaminated seafood is discussed in this chapter, details on the exposure pathways of water-related pathogens (for example, through recreational or drinking water) are discussed in Chapter 6: Water-Related Illness.
Description of evidence base: It is well documented in assessment literature that climate models project an increase in the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events.2ad39d48-c8d4-46cf-9a5c-0bc65a4da57c a6a312ba-6fd1-4006-9a60-45112db52190 Because the food transportation system moves large volumes at a time, has limited alternative routes, and is dependent on the timing of the growing and harvest seasons, it is likely that the projected increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events089d8050-f4c8-4d07-bc35-25bf61691be3 2ad39d48-c8d4-46cf-9a5c-0bc65a4da57c will also increase the frequency of food supply chain disruptions (including risks to food availability and access)82a76f89-8c28-4fc6-aecc-31420462c4a4 8f90eee3-73f3-4782-b3e0-374f1207be77 a03f3148-6495-417f-b241-f21d677e7f0d 7a0e9531-8d92-4501-b738-b11e71c18813 2198cdb0-da69-4b2d-919f-a88f85c70091 580f7af6-b0eb-4ebb-8da4-ab0a0b8ef68b 57ffaa62-7363-4a5f-915f-b1930da3ac82 and the risk for food spoilage and contamination.580f7af6-b0eb-4ebb-8da4-ab0a0b8ef68b b4dfdd6a-ffce-44a3-b6b7-5770f5c70fbb Recent extreme events have demonstrated a clear linkage to the disruption of food distribution and access.2198cdb0-da69-4b2d-919f-a88f85c70091 17380d26-bc60-4dcd-be46-9bf40616bfbd Case studies show that such events, particularly those that result in power outages, may also expose food to temperatures inadequate for safe storage,580f7af6-b0eb-4ebb-8da4-ab0a0b8ef68b with increased risk of illness. For example, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene detected a statistically significant citywide increase in diarrheal illness resulting from consumption of spoiled foods due to lost refrigeration capabilities after a 2003 power outage.d03f5405-42ed-46bd-9f7f-23ba5f71bdf3
New information and remaining uncertainties: The extent to which climate-related disruptions to the food distribution system will affect food supply, safety, and human health, including incidences of illnesses, remains uncertain. This is because the impacts of any one extreme weather event are determined by the type, severity, and intensity of the event, the geographic location in which it occurs, infrastructure resiliency, and the social vulnerabilities or adaptive capacity of the populations at risk.
Assessment of confidence based on evidence: Given the evidence base and current uncertainties, there is high confidence that projected increases in the frequency and severity of extreme events will likely lead to damage of existing food supplies and disruptions to food distribution infrastructure. There is medium confidence that these damages and disruptions will increase risk for food damage, spoilage, or contamination, which will limit availability and access to safe and nutritious foods because of uncertainties surrounding the extent of the disruptions and individual, community, or institutional sensitivity to impacts. There are further uncertainties surrounding how the specific dynamics of the extreme event, such as the geographic location in which it occurs, as well as the social vulnerabilities or adaptive capacity of the populations at risk, will impact human health.
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