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How Climate Change is Threatening the World’s Food Supply 

During these last few months under the looming terror of COVID-19, many of us have experienced disruption in the food supply chain. Walking over to your local grocery store, you were welcomed by barren shelves and for the first time, many of us had experienced what it would be like for the food supply chain to break. Luckily, the large corporations have figured out how to resume the food supply chain without it really disrupting our lives too much. However, a bigger and more permanent threat to the food supply chain exists and it comes in the form of climate change. From basic necessities like water, to luxuries such as red meat; climate change threatens to eliminate all of it.

One of the biggest threats to our food supply due to climate change is the increase in droughts around the world. Droughts not only limit our fresh water supply, but also water needed to grow crops and feed consumable animals. These droughts have caused people to migrate away from their homelands in order to find access to water. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras that migrated to the border of the United States and Mexico increased fivefold in an attempt to find salvation to their food shortages. Scientists have linked of this mass migration directly to climate change.

However, the solutions to climate change have also had an adverse effect on the food supply chain. For example, creating new sources of bioenergy, for example growing corn to produce ethanol, has led to the creation of deserts and other land deformities, according to Climate Change and Land: an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)  Special Report.

Another example of this is the planting of more trees. By planting trees in an effort to lower carbon dioxide in the air, it has taken fertile land away from growing crops, reducing the amount of space available to grow crops. According to Pamela McElwee, a professor of human ecology at Rutgers University, planting trees can reduce the amount of the greenhouse gases by 9 gigatons a year. However, this is also projected to increase food prices by 80 percent by the year 2050.

It seems like there is not a lot of options in protecting the food supply chain. Scientists are looking into new sources such as indigenous people who traditionally grow plant-based foods that are sustainable, as a resource to help create new ways of producing food.

Another way to protect the food supply chain is looking directly at your local government. There are many policies that are stuck in the assembly line that can help to start resolving these issues. But the longer we wait, the more damage we accumulate.

References:

Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns

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  1. The shortage of our food supply will definitely result in a significant hazard for an ever growing world population. Just like you said, this COVID-19 pandemic served to give us an idea about how a disruption in food supply would look and feel like. However, even though the scientific community is working on solutions for this problem, equal efforts must come up from the local governments. More importantly, a change of consumer trends must take place for us to survive as a society.

    “The state of food security and nutrition in the world” report, drafted by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has concluded that the current efforts to end hunger by 2030 are not “on track”. With the current state of our food supply and growing population, approximately 840 million people will be hungry by 2030. The report also claims that the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to “worsen the overall prospects for food security and nutrition”. More specifically, it could add between 83 and 132 million people to the already high number of malnourished people in the world. (p. 3).

    Not only access to food is important, but also access to nutritious and sufficient foods. Adopting unhealthy diets not only results in harm for people’s health, but also on the climate. The food consumption patterns between 2007 and 2016 resulted in the emission of the 21 to 37 percent of manmade greenhouse emissions in that time period. We can see that dietary choices can become “a major driver of climate change, even without considering other environmental effects” (Food and Agriculture Organization, p. 102). One of the reasons for this is attributed to the different requirements of water for mass production of certain foods. For example, the production of avocados, an ingredient that is gaining increasing popularity and worldwide consumption, leaves a significantly bigger carbon footprint than other foods. Right now, the world consumes about 11 billion pounds of avocado per year (Ochoa Ayala, 2020). However, two avocados have a carbon footprint of 846.36g CO2, “almost twice the size of one kilo of bananas (480g CO2) and three times the size of a large cappuccino with regular cow milk (235g CO2)” according to a study by Carbon Footprint Ltd. The daily production of avocados in the region of Michoacan, Mexico, requires about 9.5 trillion liters of water. The excessive use of this amount of water may result in environmentally detrimental effects. In the case of Michoacan, it is causing small earthquakes in the region as shown by Mexico’s National Seismology Service (Ochoa Ayala, 2020).

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