The US government has just issued a report that says yes, there is such a thing as climate change—and it's going to seriously fuck everything up. And soon. That includes global food security, like majorly.
Not only will climate change make cities and species disappear, but the new report says it will also stop any progress we have made on reducing undernourishment around the world. The report, called "Climate Change, Global Food Security and the US Food System," was released by the US Department of Agriculture during the ongoing Paris Climate Conference. The report lays it all out, including the multitude of evils that climate change will bring to farmers and consumers alike.
So, what delights do we have in store for ourselves in the not-so-distant future, thanks to climate change?
Well, first, food production will be disrupted due to constraints on local availability and price increases. Not just that: transport conduits will be screwed up, and food safety diminished. Sound like fun? Things will only be worse if you are among the global poor or live in a tropical region, the USDA says.
You may not realize it, but global food security has been improving over the past few years. But don't get too excited: That trend is not likely to continue. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says, "The past six years have been a success story in terms of global food security. Two hundred million fewer people are food insecure today than they were six years ago. The challenge we now face is whether we can maintain and even accelerate this progress despite the threats from climate change." The report not only sets forth the problems we are all facing but also "offers pathways to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change."
The key, really, is managing the level of emissions and concentrations of greenhouse gases. (Duh.) If we continue to increase emissions, the report says that by the year 2080, the number of people at risk of undernourishment would increase by as much as 175 million above today's level.
The USDA says there are plenty of ways to address this problem, including by strengthening agricultural economies and bringing more advanced methods of crop production to low-yielding agricultural regions. Not to mention reducing food waste, expanding cold storage to lengthen shelf life, and improving transportation infrastructure.
And then, of course, there's reducing emissions. Last spring, Vilsack announced the USDA's "10 Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture," a voluntary program targeted at reducing about 2 percent of economy-wide emissions by 2025. The program includes ten suggestions spanning a range of technologies and practices aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing carbon storage, and generating clean renewable energy. Two percent doesn't sound like a lot to us, but every little bit must help.
Let's hope that those who control the major sources of these emissions take this report as seriously as it deserves. Otherwise global food security, to the extent it exists today, will surely be a thing of the past.