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5 Foods You Eat Everyday Could Disappear Because of Climate Change, From Coffee to Potatoes

Food
5 Foods You Eat Everyday Could Disappear Because of Climate Change, From Coffee to Potatoes

By Sally Ho

Climate events will not just be felt through more frequent natural disasters and extreme temperatures, but they will soon have a daily impact on our lives in the way of food. Believe it or not, we may no longer be able to enjoy many of our favorite foods in the next few years due to a whole host of climate-related reasons, from drought to rising temperatures.


Some crops could be wiped out completely while others will become scarce and expensive. We shouldn't need another reason to act now and try to prevent climate change from worsening, but rescuing some of your pantry staples from extinction is a pretty good one.

1. Ciao Chocolate

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We all love chocolate, don't we? Sadly, due to climate change, the cacao plant used to make chocolate could be completely wiped out by 2050. Currently, over 50% of the world's chocolate is sourced from two countries: Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. The plant is notoriously sensitive to environmental changes, which explains why it can only be found in areas close to the equator. But due to more extreme weather patterns that will raise temperatures, and alter rainfall, humidity and sunshine, growing cacao beans is becoming increasingly difficult. The threat of climate change to chocolate is so serious that even confectionary giant Mars, who are famous for their chocolate caramel bars, have partnered up with scientists at the University of California to develop technology to help cacao survive. Without urgent action, we might really be looking at a chocolate-less future, as Mars's chief sustainability officer Barry Parkin told Business Insider that "frankly, we don't think we're getting there fast enough collectively."

2. Bye Bye Bananas

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Another crop likely to be badly affected by climate change is your go-to smoothie ingredient – the humble banana. In a recent study by the University of Exeter, bananas could be eliminated by adverse climate conditions in 10 countries by 2050. Although yields of the fruit have increased since 1961 due to higher temperatures and better production methods, global warming and frequent floods and droughts will threaten banana production. And bananas won't just be threatened in South America, but also at our doorstep in Asia: India, which is the world's largest producer and consumer, as well as the Philippines, are projected to suffer marked drops in banana yields in the coming decades.

3. Rice Reduction

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Our very own Asian staple – rice – is also vulnerable. According to a Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and changes in rain patterns because of global climate change will make water and land resources scarce, which will substantially impact rice cultivation. This will especially impact Asia, where the viability of land to grow rice crops could decline by more than 50% within the next century.

4. Coffee Crisis

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Another food commodity in danger of extinction is coffee. The morning stimulant is set to disappear as 50% of the land used to grow coffee will not be arable by 2100. In a landmark IPCC report, the body warned of the urgent need to tackle land management, with topsoil erosion happening at faster rates than ever before, threatening irreversible ecosystem loss. A study published in the journal Science Advances stated that popular coffee species are under threat, including Arabica, which takes up 60% of global production.

While global demand continues to drive more coffee plantations around the world, leading to further land-clearing deforestation and fertilizer use, wild mountain coffee plants are dying because they require natural shade and a cooler temperature range. Coffee is also facing the dual threat of diseases, like the fungus called coffee rust, which thrive in higher temperatures brought on by global warming.

Pricing will be a huge issue too and it's already started. Commodity analysts recently polled by Reuters said that arabica beans prices could rise by 25% by the end of this year. As Starbucks founder Howard Shultz recently told TIME, "Make no mistake, climate change is going to play a bigger role in affecting the quality and integrity of coffee."

5. Potato Famine

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We might have to bid goodbye to delicious Indian aloo gobi and Thai massaman curry, because climate change. Climate change is a serious threat to potato cultivation, with rising temperatures accompanying sea levels pushing potato farmers to move to higher altitudes in Peru, Latin America's biggest potato producer. But even this is not a long-term solution, as the germplasm curator of International Potato Center (CIP) Rene Gómez told the IPS that she "estimate[s] in 40 years there will be nowhere left to plant potatoes" in the region.

This story originally appeared in Green Queen. It is republished here as part of EcoWatch's partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

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Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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