The Climate Crisis Is 'a Perfect Storm' Headed for the World's Food Supply
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."
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.
.@JerryBrownGov @MikeBloomberg's top climate strategy fails to take into account food consumption.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) October 20, 2018
Meat and dairy generate more emissions than the combined tailpipe discharges from every plane, train, car, bus & boat worldwide.https://t.co/CHFaxSZPbO
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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