Climate change and food

By Thais Lopez Vogel

It is responsible for us to ask ourselves: can we continue to have sufficient and stable access to food?

This holiday season at the end of the year is the time of peak food consumption in the United States. So, it’s a good moment to talk about the close link between climate change and our food supply.

This is perhaps where the climate crisis affects us all the most, because no one can say they don’t care about the risks to our food security. It is responsible for us to ask ourselves: can we continue to have sufficient and stable access to food? The answer is no, if we do not change certain habits.

The variation in temperatures is negatively impacting fields and orchards around the world and forcing farmers to take drastic and costly measures to cope with droughts, high temperatures and frosts.

Climate change will further exacerbate these problems as floods, droughts, storms and other extreme weather events disrupt and eventually reduce global food supplies.

Worrying figures

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), land used for livestock production accounts for approximately 70% of the world’s total agricultural land. Overgrazing is the main cause of its degradation.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture and forestry sectors currently account for more than 30% of annual emissions, 17.4% from deforestation and forest degradation and 13.5% from agriculture.

Additionally, “Because some plants need very strict conditions of humidity, temperature or soil types to develop, their cultivation is restricted to certain geographic areas,” according to Beatriz Robles, food technologist and nutritionist. Therefore, if conditions in those areas change, they may no longer be suitable for these vegetables.

In 2021, researchers at Cornell University estimated that global agricultural productivity was already 21% lower than it would be without climate change.

One particular danger is that food crises will occur at the same time on various continents, according to Cynthia Rosenzweig, senior research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

What we can do

Are there solutions? Of course there are, but we must act immediately.

Improved land management practices could contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by managing them properly through actions such as reducing land use changes and related deforestation, using more efficient crop varieties, organic soil management, conservation agriculture and agroforestry systems, among other actions.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, well-managed pasture and cropland can sequester significant amounts of carbon.

For our part, we must take extreme responsibility in minimizing food waste. We can also explore a plant-based diet. This alternative is healthier for our bodies and, additionally, allows us to feed ourselves with products that are friendlier to the planet.

While professionals and experts work on solutions, let’s do our part. We are facing humanity’s greatest challenge and only through working together could bring positive results.

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