Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

The Climate Crisis Is 'a Perfect Storm' Headed for the World's Food Supply

Climate
Farm land bordering an industrial area in South Africa. John Hogg / World Bank Photo Collection

Food production must change drastically and immediately in order to sustain ourselves through the ongoing climate crisis, says a new United Nations report put together by more than 100 experts from 52 different countries, according to The New York Times.


The special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to contain global warming will not be enough to feed the world's growing population, if we do not see seismic shifts in global land use, agriculture and human diets, as Nature reported.

The report found a sliver of hope, if governments and corporations around the world act now to allow soils and forests to regenerate and store carbon, and to cut meat consumption and food waste in industrialized nations, The Guardian reported. The report noted that nearly one-fourth of all food is wasted.

As the climate crisis accelerates and global heating increases, droughts, soil erosion, floods, wildfires and various types of extreme weather diminish crop yields and the global food supply. Increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from thawing permafrost and wildfires will lead to extraordinary climate conditions at lower latitudes, which may cause a spike in hunger despite the fact that 10 percent of the world already suffers from chronic hunger, as Ecowatch reported.

A rise in food shortages may lead to cross-border migrations, violent conflicts and damage to the northern forests when their resources are plundered, according to The Guardian.

"This is a perfect storm," said Dave Reay, a professor at the University of Edinburgh who was an expert reviewer for the IPCC report, to The Guardian. "Limited land, an expanding human population, and all wrapped in a suffocating blanket of climate emergency. Earth has never felt smaller, its natural ecosystems never under such direct threat."

The IPCC sees an acute threat if food crises could happen on several continents at once, said Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the lead authors of the report, as The New York Times reported. "The potential risk of multi-breadbasket failure is increasing," she said. "All of these things are happening at the same time."

Some experts predict that the food shortages will affect poorer parts of the world, increasing a flow of immigrants into North America and Europe, which is already redefining politics worldwide and leading to the popularity of hard-liner, nationalist politicians, according to The New York Times.

The IPCC did offer a pathway out of the impending food crisis, which requires aforementioned changes in land use and in consumer behavior.

"One of the important findings of our work is that there are a lot of actions that we can take now. They're available to us," said Dr. Rosenzweig to The New York Times. "But what some of these solutions do require is attention, financial support, enabling environments."

As far as action that a consumer can take immediately, scientists and economists who study diets and the environment have been advocating a move to a plant-centered diet, as NPR reported.

Right now, nearly 50 percent of the world's land is dedicated to agriculture, a third of which is solely dedicated to growing grain for animal feed. Since livestock require so much food, meat production is a leading cause of deforestation, which takes away trees that will filter out greenhouse gas emissions.

A report released last month by the World Resources Institute, on which Ecowatch reported, finds that if current patterns continue, additional agricultural land measuring about twice the size of India is required to feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050.

"You're sort of reaching a breaking point with land itself and its ability to grow food and sustain us," said Aditi Sen, a senior policy adviser on climate change at Oxfam America, as The New York Times reported.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A polar bear is seen stopping to drink near the north pole. Christopher Michel / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The fossil fuel industry is driving polar bears to cannibalism.

Read More
Mathias Appel / Flickr

Get ready for double the cuteness! Red pandas, the crimson-colored, bushy-tailed forest dwellers who gave Firefox its name, actually consist of two different species.

Read More
Sponsored
A view of a washed out road near Utuado, Puerto Rico, after a Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew dropped relief supplies to residents Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. The locals were stranded after Hurricane Maria by washed out roads and mudslides. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric D. Woodall / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Coral Natalie Negrón Almodóvar

The Earth began to shake as Tamar Hernández drove to visit her mother in Yauco, Puerto Rico, on Dec. 28, 2019. She did not feel that first tremor — she felt only the ensuing aftershocks — but she worried because her mother had an ankle injury and could not walk. Then Hernández thought, "What if something worse is coming our way?"

Read More
Flooded battery park tunnel is seen after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. CC BY 2.0

President Trump has long touted the efficacy of walls, funneling billions of Defense Department dollars to build a wall on the southern border. However, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released a study that included plans for a sea wall to protect New Yorkers from sea-level rise and catastrophic storms like Hurricane Sandy, Trump mocked it as ineffective and unsightly.

Read More
A general view of fire damaged country in the The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area near the town of Blackheath on Feb. 21, 2020 in Blackheath, Australia. Brook Mitchell / Getty Images

In a post-mortem of the Australian bushfires, which raged for five months, scientists have concluded that their intensity and duration far surpassed what climate models had predicted, according to a study published yesterday in Nature Climate Change.

Read More