Priyanka Mohanty
Research Intern at Jindal Centre for the Global South
O.P. Jindal Global University

Climate Change is one of the most discussed topics today, starting from local to international level, everyone has acknowledged or ingrained the fact that ongoing climate change is going to impact their day-to-day lifestyle, with varying degrees. However, the impact of the climate change is not the same on every region or population. Some will manage to cope-up with their technological ingenuity and adapting capacity while some will become victims of this ongoing climatic variations. The article explores how food security is impacted because of global warming and other altering climatic parameters in the region of South Asia.

According to United Nations Committee on World Food Security, Food Security refers to “all people, at all times, have physical, social, economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life” (International Food Policy Research Institute, Food Security) In other words, it is the availability, affordability, accessibility of food for a person. But these tenets are under constant threat today because of sudden and abrupt change in weather, which in turn is affecting the lives of people.

Agriculture is the backbone of many countries, especially in the region of South Asia. To feed the population and to deal with the problems of hunger, a sustainable food system is the need of the hour. But soaring temperatures because of global warming is impacting the crop yield and crop productivity. Further soil salinity is also becoming a rising problem because of increase in evapotranspiration, which leaves behind the salt particles and that ultimately changes the soil chemistry in the long run. Here the soil becomes no longer becomes responsive to the desired agricultural inputs and demands additional aid to cope up with the previous production levels.

According to the report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007), there is going to be a rise of temperature by 0.88-3.16°C in average temperature by 2050, and a 1.56-5.44°C rise by 2080 in South Asia. And by 2050 there will be a decrease in yield for wheat, rice and maize by 50%, 17% and 6% respectively relative to 2000 levels because of climate change, as per a study by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) (Rasul, 2021). These decreases in production level will not only affect the food system of South Asia but will also destabilize the food security of global community. This is because South Asia is the second largest producer of rice and wheat, also they are the main staples of this region. To be precise, India and Pakistan are two of the top ten producers of wheat in the world. Also, when it comes to the consumption of these cereals, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh are the front-runners. From Table1, it is evident how climate change has impacted the yields of major crops in South Asia. It shows how India and Bangladesh will be leading the chart in decline of production of wheat, followed by Pakistan. In case of rice yield, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan will witness a decline by 40%, 32%, 10%, 4% respectively. And maize and sugarcane will also witness a similar decline in their yields. This region solely depends on the primary sector for their livelihoods and thus agriculture is like a spinal cord to the region’s economy. When the loss because of climate change is calculated in terms of GDP, it is estimated that South Asia will lose 9% and the most will be borne by India (12.6%), Nepal (9.9%) and then Bangladesh (9.4%).

Various studies have also been carried out to analyze the impact of climate change on fisheries and related sectors. For example, considering the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (Bangladesh/India) and Volta (Ghana) deltas, changes in temperature and primary production could reduce fish productivity and fisheries income especially in the Volta and Bangladesh deltas. And these consequences of climate change will severely impact the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Table 1: Impacts of Climate Change on the yields of major crops in South Asia.

CropBangladeshBhutanIndiaNepalPakistanSri LankaSouth Asia
Rice-10% by 2080-4% by the 2080s‒40% by 2080‒32% by the 2080s‒1.9% by 2080‒0.41% by 2030‒17% by 2050
Wheat‒60% by 2050NA-60% by 2050+18.4% due to CO2 fertilization and
+8.6% due to increases in temperature
‒27% by the 2080s  ‒4.10% by 203050% by 2050
MaizeNegativeNA‒20% by 2020‒26.4% in the
Terai and ‒9.3% in the hills by 2050    
‒4.3% by 2080NA‒6% by 2050
Sugarcane‒1.6% by 2030NA‒2.66% by 2030‒5.69% by 2030‒2.2% to‒6.61% by 2030NA
Cotton‒7.94% by 2030NA‒7.01 % by 2030 ‒9.21% by 2030‒5.23% by 20309.71% by 2030NA
All CropsNANANANANANA8% by 2030
GDP loss by 20509.4%6.6%12.6%9.9%1-2% by 20306.5%8.8%
Source: Rasul, 2021

Figure 1: Locust attack

Source: Down To Earth

Climate change has altered the frequency of natural events like flood, cyclone, tsunami etc. As a result of rising temperatures, wind and precipitation, the birth and survival of various insects becomes conducive which in turn destabilizes the life of people residing in that region as well as in adjoining and extended regions. Recently in 2019-2020 (from Figure 1), a swarm of desert locusts swept the countries in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, devastating the food security and livelihood of the region (Salih, Baraibar, Mwangi & Artan, 2020). And these problems get further accentuated because of various non-climatic factors, like, political instability, armed conflicts, limited financial resources, weak early warning system, making the vulnerable communities become more fragile. Attack of locusts is a very normal event in the region since time immemorial, but this hijack was severe because of increase in cyclone frequency and extreme climatic variability. This adds to the sorrows of the inhabitants because these insects feed on green vegetation like trees, shrubs, crops etc and in turn impacts their lives in the form of food shortage, inflation, financial instability, and a degrading social life. In Pakistan, for the first time the infestation affected all the provinces, consuming the arable lands and distressing the farmers and the region. The suffering got much worse because of the pandemic which had already disabled the economy. As per a report, nearly 792.9 thousand hectares of vegetation area in Pakistan got impacted because of desert locusts (Pervaz, 2021).

Figure 2: A farmer holding dead locusts in Pipli Pahar village in Pakistan’s Punjab province ( Picture taken on February 23, 2020)

Source: Aljazeera (

The lives of people will continue to get impacted in some or other way and in different magnitudes from problems. However various technological innovations and interventions, adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, participation of various stakeholders for an integrated policymaking, proper execution and quick handling of unforeseen situations in terms of governance can help in reducing the burden of climate change impacts, especially on vulnerable communities. In other words, agriculture needs to be climate-smart so that it can become resilient and adaptive in nature. For example, use of adaptive crops like millet requires less irrigation requirements, can provide better productivity with very with very low nutrient requirements and are also not much reactive to environmental stresses. Various modern-day approaches like bioremediation, phytoremediation, cultivation of salt-tolerant crops by genetic engineering can be used to deal with stressed soils (Kumar & Sharma, 2020). Tools and technologies like Geographic Information System can help in analysis and planning with regards to environment, Early Warning System can provide a prior dissemination of information in case of a massive pest attacks and thereby help in informed decision making (Salih, Baraibar, Mwangi & Artan, 2020). Lastly, a stable food system is the need of the hour which will not only tackle food insecurity but also other social (poverty, hunger etc.) and economical aspects of individuals.


Salih, A. A., Baraibar, M., Mwangi, K. K., & Artan, G. (2020). Climate change and locust outbreak in East Africa. Nature Climate Change, 10(7), 584-585.Retrieved from:

Saxena, R., Vanga, S. K., Wang, J., Orsat, V., & Raghavan, V. (2018). Millets for food security in the context of climate change: A review. Sustainability, 10(7), 2228. Retrieved from:

Ray, D. K., West, P. C., Clark, M., Gerber, J. S., Prishchepov, A. V., & Chatterjee, S. (2019). Climate change has likely already affected global food production. PloS one, 14(5), e0217148. Retrieved from:

Kumar, P., & Sharma, P. K. (2020). Soil salinity and food security in India. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 4, 533781. Retrieved from:

Rasul, G. (2021). Twin challenges of COVID-19 pandemic and climate change for agriculture and food security in South Asia. Environmental Challenges, 2, 100027. Retrieved from:

Food Security. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Pervaz, B. (2021). Locust Attack in Pakistan: Assessing and Dealing with the Threat. Policy Perspectives, 18(1), 109-121. Retrieved from:

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Jindal Centre for the Global South or its members.

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