Climate change is likely to slow progress on reducing global undernourishment in the future, according to a major scientific assessment released today by USDA on global food security and its implications for the United States.

The report, entitled Climate Change, Global Food Security and the US Food System, identifies the risks that climate change poses to global food security and the challenges facing farmers and consumers in adapting to changing climate conditions.

Without an appropriate response, the report says climate change will likely disrupt production that could lead to problems regarding local product availability, price increases, interrupted transport conduits and diminished food safety among other causes. These risks are greatest for the world’s poorest and tropical regions.

“The past six years have been a success story in terms of global food security,” says Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary. “Two hundred million fewer people are food insecure today than they were six years ago. The challenge we now face is whether we can maintain and even accelerate this progress despite the threats from climate change. The report we are releasing today highlights these challenges and offers pathways to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change.”

Food systems in the US benefit from a large area of arable land, high agricultural yields, vast integrated transportation systems and a high level of overall economic development. However, USDA says changes in climate are expected to affect US consumers and producers by altering the type and price of food imports from other regions of the world, as well as by changing export demand and transportation, processing, storage, infrastructure that enable global trade.

For the study, researchers ran a number of scenarios that ranged in terms of the rate of climate change. Under scenarios where there is a continuous increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the number of people at risk of undernourishment could increase by as much as 175 million above today’s level by 2080. But there are steps that can be done to reduce this risk. For the food industry, USDA says these actions can include reducing food waste through innovative packaging, expanding cold storage to lengthen shelf life and improving transportation infrastructure to move food more rapidly to market.

More on the study can be found here.