The Relationship Between Climate Change and Food 

There is no way around it, conventional, large scale food production affects the climate, and global warming has a negative impact on food production.  

Conventional Food Production Affects Climate Change: 

Logistics & Distribution:  The distance that food travels is actually a small  % of the overall carbon footprint from food production.

“One study showed that lamb raised in New Zealand and shipped 18,000 kilometres to the U.K. produced less than one-quarter of the greenhouse gases than local British lamb.  Local flocks ate grains, which take a lot of energy to grow, while the New Zealand flocks grazed on grass. Shipping the lamb to the U.K. was responsible for only five per cent of greenhouse gases; 80 per cent of were from farm activities. One packaged orange juice assessment found that more than one-third of lifecycle emissions came from the synthetic fertilizer used on the orange groves”. (1) 

In summary, you may have a smaller carbon footprint by buying organic food from afar than you do locally grown conventional food. 

Agricultural Carbon Emissions: Roughly 60% of the greenhouse gases and 78% of methane gases produced in food production is as a result of livestock agriculture.   

Deforestation:  Deforestation accounts for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions 

Wasted Food:  30% of global food production is wasted.  The efforts that go into producing food that is wasted is roughly 3.3billion tons of CO2, which is roughly 8% of the human greenhouse gas emissions.  

Climate Change Affects Global Food Production:

Ocean Life: Rising temperatures may reduce the catches of the worlds primary fish species by up to 40% within the next 30 years.  This may lead to a loss of income for workers dependant on the fishing industry and an increase in prices for the end consumer.  

Affected Crops:  Global warming affects every growing, living thing on this earth.  However, there are several crops that are more likely to be adversely affected than others. Coffee growing regions are being impacted by longer droughts, higher temperatures, and more extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rainfall.  Chocolate is also at risk.  Cacao trees can only grow in very specific conditions.  These trees require humid, rainy conditions.  With the increase of average temperature throughout cocoa growing regions, the heat is taking moisture from the plants and ground, thus decreasing humidity.  More extreme weather and generally warmer temperatures throughout the pacific northwest is affecting the growth and production of hops, a necessary ingredient in beer.  Another treat that is also at risk is your morning breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup.  Sugar maples require very specific growing conditions, and take almost half a decade to reach maturity.  With the increase of daily highs, and the days have been too hot and the nights too warm for the trees to produce syrup.  Additionally, acid rain changes the PH balance in soil, adding yet another obstacle to syrup production.  Extreme weather on land affects more than just coastal regions.  Peanuts are grown in the Southern U, and require 5 months of consistently warm weather and 20-40 inches or rain in order to thrive.  Droughts in the area have affected peanut production, and when production is negatively affected, you can be sure that prices will rise.  Rising prices is not the only issue.  Potatoes , a primary sample of Peruvian agriculture and export, also require specific conditions to grow.  As the temperature rises, the land which is suitable for potato farming changes. In order to maintain optimal growing conditions, potato agriculture is slowly moving to higher and higher altitudes.  Unfortunately, the Andes have a peak, and soon there will be no altitude remaining that is suitable for potatoes to grow.  Off land, in the ocean, climate change is seriously affecting seafood, in particular lobster and salmon.  Lobsters are cold blooded, and as the temperature of the ocean rises, these crustaceans have to use more of their energy just to exist, which in turn means they have less energy for feeding, growth, reproduction. These higher water temperatures are also affecting salmon spawning cycle and increasing mortality rates for the youngsters.  

The Human Toll 

75% of the world’s poor and food insecure inhabitants rely on agriculture and natural resources as their livelihood.  With climate change creating more volatile weather conditions, and adversely affecting food production, what will happen to the farmers who rely on these crops to provide the necessities of life? And what will happen to the rest of the world who relies on these farmers to produce food? 

What You Can Do 

Eat Less Meat: try to eat one meat-free meal per day.  As livestock agriculture accounts for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions, find your protein elsewhere one meal per day.  

Plan Ahead: meal plan for the week, so that you only purchase what you need.  Food waste means we are producing greenhouse gases for food that is not actually consumed AND the wasted food ends up producing greenhouse gases in landfills - a double whammy! 

Buy Organic: Simply put, organic farming is easier on the environment.  However, the ideal scenario is to purchase locally grown organic food.  

Grow Your Own: Even if it is just greens in a box on your balcony, every little bit helps.  Grow what you can, where you can.   

  1. David Suzuki - Queen Of Green 

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