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It is widely anticipated that climate change will negatively affect both food security and diet diversity. Diet diversity is especially critical for children as it correlates with macro and micronutrient intake important for child development. Despite these anticipated links, little empirical evidence has demonstrated a relationship between diet diversity and climate change, especially across large datasets spanning multiple global regions and with more recent climate data. Here we use survey data from 19 countries and more than 107 000 children, coupled with 30 years of precipitation and temperature data, to explore the relationship of climate to child diet diversity while controlling for other agroecological, geographic, and socioeconomic factors. We find that higher long-term temperatures are associated with decreases in overall child diet diversity, while higher rainfall in the previous year, compared to the long-term average rainfall, is associated with greater diet diversity. Examining six regions (Asia, Central America, North Africa, South America, Southeast Africa, and West Africa) individually, we find that five have significant reductions in diet diversity associated with higher temperatures while three have significant increases in diet diversity associated with higher precipitation. In West Africa, increasing rainfall appears to counterbalance the effect of rising temperature impacts on diet diversity. In some regions, the statistical effect of climate on diet diversity is comparable to, or greater than, other common development efforts including those focused on education, improved water and toilets, and poverty reduction. These results suggest that warming temperatures and increasing rainfall variability could have profound short- and long-term impacts on child diet diversity, potentially undermining widespread development interventions aimed at improving food security.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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