Climate change to bring more than drought

Photo by duggar11 (Charles Duggar) via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A recent article from Reuters warns of the dangerous to the global food supply due to climate change. As summarized in the piece’s introduction,

Food security experts working on a chapter in a U.N. overview of global warming due in 2014 said governments should take more account of how extremes of heat, droughts or floods could affect food supplies from seeds to consumers’ plates.

“It has not been properly recognised yet that we are dealing with a food system here. There is a whole chain that is also going to be affected by climate change,” Professor Dr John Porter of the University of Copenhagen said.

“It is more than just the fact that there are droughts in the United States that will reduce yields,” he said….

After harvest, floods could wash away roads or bridges, for instance, between fields and factories processing the crop. Or warehouses storing food could be damaged by more powerful storms. Such factors were likely to hit poor nations hardest.

The conclusion is equally direct and thought-provoking:

“It’s a distributional problem – there is enough food in the world. But the distribution doesn’t work,” said Bruce McCarl, a professor at Texas A&M University. Climate extremes could aggravate food price swings, he said….

“We may be hitting a point where it’s getting harder to get technological progress” in raising yields, McCarl said. Annual yield growth for U.S. corn had slowed to about 1.5 percent from stellar rates of about 3.5 percent in the early 1970s.

Porter said the world had so far escaped predictions that population growth would outstrip food production, most famously by English writer Thomas Malthus in 1798.

But he said the world now had triple goals of producing food for people, crops for biofuels and feed for animals, often raised for their meat. “In my view we can have two out of those three and not all three,” he said.

A shift towards more vegetarian diets would help, he said.

Check out the full piece here.

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