How Does Climate Change Threaten Food Security? Let Me Count the Ways

There is enough food to go around, even in our overpopulated planet, though we’re not great at actually harvesting and transporting crops so they get to the people that need them. But if starvation isn’t enough of a problem already (it really is), it could be a lot worse in future decades. Here is a list-in-progress of major food security concerns.

CO2 Impacts Nutritiveness of Crops

This recent round-up of studies related to the effects on nutrition of human food crops of higher CO2 concentration in the atmosphere added one more novel risk mechanism to an already intimidating list. Several independent studies have found that crops growing in an atmosphere that is higher in CO2 concentration will actually take up minerals and nutrients less effectively, resulting in lower-nutrition in the harvested crops. What’s scary is how sinister the effects could be, if we believe we have enough food based simply on yield only to find out the food itself lacks the necessary nutrition to sustain us as reports of malnutrition start coming in from health organizations. These studies put to rest the claims Republicans have made that climate change would be good for plants.

Droughts and Flooding

The disruption of the water cycle has resulted in yearly food shortages as climate change is making droughts more and more common. While scientists today are working toward breakthroughs that might lead to the development of drought-adapted crops, the fact is a lack of water is always going to reduce potential yield. The unpredictability of when, whether, where, and for how long a drought will hit a region’s breadbasket also puts a crimp in other efforts to mitigate crop loss by other means. On the flip side, sporadic and heavy rains out of season can also damage and wipe out crops, especially if crops are submerged for weeks as a result of even minor flooding.

Wildfires

Like droughts and floods, wildfires have a sort of predictable unpredictability. We know they are going to continue to increase in frequency, but still can’t pinpoint where and when they will happen, how long they will last, or how severe the damage will be. Wildfires are a threat to our safety, certainly, but the scorching of the land impacts our ability to produce food, also.

Ocean Acidification and the Marine Foodweb

The increase in CO2 in the atmosphere has resulted in CO2 also being pushed into the ocean. There it forms carbonic acid, increasing the acidity of the ocean. This is responsible for everything from the bleaching of coral reefs to an explosion in jellyfish populations. Decades of overfishing mean that many stocks have only just been starting to rebound as climate change’s effects have started directly worrying away at the foundations of marine ecosystems. This is a critical issue, as a large scale collapse of ocean ecology is likely to happen very suddenly once the damage reaches a certain point.

Migration Patterns in Marine Fishing Stocks

Though aquatic species don’t experience weather in the same way animals on land do, with swings in temperature and currents generally being more muted, large-scale changes in ocean currents and average temperature will definitely impact fishing stocks. Many people are surprised that colder waters are as diverse and rich as they are, supporting the majority of global fisheries. Increased global temperature rise could eventually eliminate cooler waters entirely, and in the meantime, can make fishing stocks and oceanic migration patterns more unpredictable. Combining this with ocean adicification presents a huge chaotic factor of unpredictability and instability in our food resources.

One of the great ironies future generations may note is that our decision to turn farming into an assembly-line, factory-like process is one of the major reasons our own security has become anything but predictable or secure. The threat to a stable food-provisioning system is one more reason we need to urgently work to mitigate and attempt to reverse the effects of climate change, while we still have the infrastructure and functioning society to do so. Mass starvation is not a great catalyst for effective, logical problem-solving.

Photo credit: NIH

129 comments

luna smith s
Past Member 3 months ago

food is not threatened by santa clause because theres no such thing as GLOBAL WARMING SO I THINK OUR FOOD IS FINE

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

SEND
DAVID f
Dave f4 months ago

Thanks

SEND
Barb S
Barb Stuckel4 months ago

I wish everyone did their research on climate change. It is factual and not debatable.

SEND
Pietro M
Pietro Maiorana4 months ago

Da mangiare con gli occhi

SEND
Daniela M
Daniela M4 months ago

Very worrisome...

SEND
Chad A
Chad Anderson4 months ago

Thank you!

SEND