Food prices are already on the rise, and are expected to rise 40 percent in the decades to come as drought and other climate related impacts take their toll. A leaked report out of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests it’s going to get a lot harder to grow the food we need in decades to come, exacerbating the problems of food price and availability.
The document, which is due to be released in March, is not finished and could change before its release, but as of right now, the news is ominous. The report explains that while warmer temperatures will help higher latitudes grow more crops, overall global production will actually go down over time. To be more precise, the report expects global food production to decrease by as much as two percent each decade for the next century.
This decrease in production will be mostly found in the tropical regions of the world where droughts and heat waves are expected to create more frequent crop damage. Add in the rising population over the next few decades, where population will grow from 7.2 billion today to an expected 9.6 billion in 2050, and food scarcity will become an even bigger problem.
In addition to lower crop production and rising populations, there is a growing population that can afford to eat more food. This increase in availability of food for higher economic classes is and will make food more scarce for poorer regions of the world. As more people are able to buy more food, they are also ending up with too much food. This extra food ends up going in the trash, as globally one-third or 1.3 billion tons of food goes to waste every year.
There is also a fear of a feedback loop developing as areas across the globe expand into the little forested land we have left to grow food. This agricultural expansion will create more deforestation, aid in the removal of carbon sinks, and add to increasing carbon levels. This expansion will also add to the acceleration of climate change, contributing to the vicious cycle of rising temperatures and uninhabitable lands.
All these factors are coming together to form a global mess of our food supply chain and it may only get worse. Lower food production will also make our food supply lines more susceptible to interruptions, resulting in social and political unrest.
As individuals and as a world we need to act now in order to prevent millions, if not more, from going hungry in the future. The gleam of hope in the report is that there is still time to change our ways today to prevent further effects of climate change in later years. It’s a hard price to pay up front for results down the line but we are responsible for climate change, which means we’re responsible for its effects in the future, including how it affects our own food production.
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