Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

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

Unsplash

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

Unsplash

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

Unsplash

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

Unsplash

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

Unsplash

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.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declares victory during the Labor Party Election Night Function at Auckland Town Hall on Oct. 17, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Hannah Peters / Getty Images

Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister who has emerged as a leader on the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, has won a second term in office.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A woman holds a handful of vitamin C. VO IMAGES / Getty Images

By Laura Beil

Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."

Read More Show Less

Trending

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Sir David Attenborough look at a piece of ice core from the Antarctic during a naming ceremony for the polar research ship the RSS Sir David Attenborough on Sept. 26, 2019 in Birkenhead, England. Asadour Guzelian - WPA Pool / Getty Images

By Elliot Douglas

In early October, Britain's Prince William teamed up with conservationist David Attenborough to launch the Earthshot Prize, a new award for environmentalist innovation. The Earthshot brands itself the "most prestigious global environment prize in history."

The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.

But the pair are only the frontmen of a much larger movement which has been in development for several years. In addition to a panel of experts who will decide on the winners, the prize's formation took advice from the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Jack Ma Foundation.

With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

These microfibers, smaller than five millimeters, are shed when synthetic clothes are washed. Cris Cantón / Getty Images
A new study from the University of California at Santa Barbara has found that synthetic clothes released about 4,000 metric tons of plastic microfibers into California's environment in 2019.
Read More Show Less
The 1.4-gigawatt coal-fired Kingston Steam Plant, just outside Kingston, Tennessee on the shore of Watts Bar Lake on March 31, 2019. In 2008, a coal ash pond at the plant collapsed, leading to the largest industrial spill in modern U.S. history and subsequent industry regulations in 2015. Paul Harris / Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a rule change on Friday that will allow some coal power plants to ignore a court order to clean up coal ash ponds, which leech toxic materials into soil and groundwater. The rule change will allow some coal ash ponds to stay open for years while others that have no barrier to protect surrounding areas are allowed to stay open indefinitely, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch