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The Impact of Climate Change on Food Security

May 5, 2022
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

So far, climate change has mostly impacted the planet rather than its inhabitants. The effects to date have been devastating, and they will continue to get worse as the years go by. But world leaders don’t seem to want to take sufficient action until climate change begins to affect them personally and, by then, it will already be too late. This generation will remain mostly unaffected by climate change, but the next few generations will feel the effects in full force. One of the ways future generations will suffer is from lack of food.

 

A 2019 United Nations report warned that the world’s resources are being “exploited at unprecedented rates,” mainly due to weather changes brought on by climate change. Lack of arable land and water combined with the other damaging effects of climate change impacts crop growth: Temperatures are rising, making it harder to grow certain crops and increasing the prevalence of pests. Rainfall is becoming unpredictable, resulting in meager harvests or flooded fields of crops. These weather effects and many others will affect food production, causing prices to rise and food quality to fall.

 

Climate change will first affect third-world countries who already struggle with food shortages. But eventually, it will start impacting the food supply of first-world countries as well. The CDC details exactly how this will occur.

 

  • As food prices rise, food insecurity increases. People whose diets already consist mostly of fast food due to their inability to afford healthier choices will have to survive solely on the cheapest foods, lacking in essential nutrients and vitamins. This will further spike the obesity rate in America, and hospitals will see an influx of patients suffering from obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
  • As the effects of climate change worsen, food choices will become more and more limited and quality will decline for all. Americans whose diets are a part of their culture, such as Alaskan natives, will be forced to change their eating habits due to shortages of key foods. Many crops will have lower levels of protein, calcium, iron, zinc, and other vitamins due to higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, which affect the nitrogen content of crops. 
  • Livestock will be greatly affected by climate change. Due to shortages of clean drinking water, new diseases will be introduced into the water supply. Elevated temperatures will cause heat stress in animals and change their metabolism, leading to lower yields of consumer beef, pork, and chicken. Pastures, where cows graze, will also suffer from climate change–nutrients in grass will decrease, leading cows to eat less, making them thin. 

 

The longer governments do not act, the sooner we will feel the impact of climate change on food security.

 

Written by Natan Rosenfeld

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