Blog Action Day: the link between food and climate change

• October 17, 2011
Gates Foundation - Rice farmers Bangladesh

Creative Commons: Gates Foundation, 2011

The longer I work in climate change, the more I realize its effects will never be limited to weather changes and rising seas. For every degree the global temperature rises and every part per million we increase the level of carbon dioxide in the air, we change our world in ways we do not yet fully comprehend. This is never more true than in how climate change impacts our global food supply.

Increasing drought, water shortages, and extreme weather events due to a changing climate will force us to find new ways to meet the growing demand for food as resources become more constrained.  A recent UNEP study looked at historical damage to food crops from high temperatures during the growing season alongside projections of future warming. It suggests that unprecedented heat during the growing season could threaten food security in many regions.

As much as 1/4 of global food production could be lost by 2050 due to the combined impact of climate change, land degradation, and water scarcity. At the same time, global population is projected to increase from the current 6.76 billion to about 9.5 billion people. The map shows projected regional changes in agricultural productivity due to climate change by 2080:

Map: UNEP/GRID Arendale

In some regions, these changes are already happening.

This summer we watched as Texas farmers reeled from the record-breaking drought and heatwave which has reduced crop yields at least 5.8%. Across the world in the Horn of Africa, millions are starving after years of drought, with no rain predicted until the end of the year at the earliest.  In Bangladesh, farmers face the opposite challenge. Rising sea levels from climate change are forcing them to move their food storage and small fields onto raised growing platforms. Residents in small island nations are questioning where their food will come from as rising seas turn formerly fertile soils into salty mires.

And for those of you who reading this in the developed world, where food is rarely scarce, consider this: Just this week, my inbox was filled with articles about rising food prices and potential shortages for peanut butter, coffee and chocolate. Concerned yet? You really should be.

Read on for more information on how climate change impacts food security and how you can help our partners working on these issues.

TckTckTck is proud to be a partner in Blog Action Day 2011.

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